“Abandon all Hope, Ye who enter here” reads the sign over the gates of Dante’s hell. The journey down into the dark depths of that fearsome place is populated with heroes and tragic figures – politicians, priests, artists, philosophers and every assortment of poor soul caught still – stuck in places along the suffering path.
But the hero in the tale keeps moving. Pauses to hear the story and taste the suffering of each one – and then moves on.
It’s good friends who keep me moving on. I’ve announced that I’m burnt out and fried toasty to church, family and friends. As my own personal pain rises closer and closer to the surface – my capacity to walk with others in their pain diminishes.
Some wonder how I can do it at all? Am I faking it? How real is the care I offer – if I’m too burnt out to work?
Planes crash in different ways.
Some hit walls.
Some engines burst into flame and the plane dramatically drops from the sky - lost in the wilderness.
I’m coming in for a long, slow, semi-controlled crash landing - with one engine still working – with guidance from the control tower – on a good landing strip with fire and emergency crews awaiting.
Is it because I’m such a control freak? Is it because I am a seasoned professional who is able to monitor the fine balance between personal health and pastoral care? No, it’s because I have good friends and good teachers and a good sense that GOD truly provides.
Not in some magical big brother hand from the sky – gas mysteriously appearing in the empty tank – way. It happens I know – and that just makes life so much more confusing. I wonder sometimes if those events – spontaneous healings – found money – Chicken Soup rescues – are true gifts? Or, are they mean little tricks played by less than benevolent spirits to keep us from growing up and finding our footing as full partners in the day to day miracles you and I perform with help from…from…
Because even though life gives good gifts – it takes them away just as fast. And sometimes we – or those we love - get hit with one, two, three, four blows in rapid succession that prayers and good spiritual practices and even the powerful and most potent Hope won’t keep us from getting knocked down to our knees.
What the Frack is goin on?
A friend tells me that the pain I’m experiencing is the pain of Gaia. All creation suffers. Our mother earth has cancer, her creatures and creation suffer – not only because of what we human creatures have spoiled – but because it is in the nature of this life, this world, this drama we play – to suffer.
That helps. It’s not just me and all the stupid things I’ve done. It’s not all about what my mother did or didn’t do – how my father did or didn’t love or punish enough. Childhood was simply the first place I encountered the suffering that no parent can protect us from.
A teacher offers me the gift of imagination – to see how I can cope with the pain. Not by running, avoiding, feeding, medicating, denying, submerging, or even trying to talk it through. While all those things help for the moment – the pain’s still there waiting to have it’s day – it’s way with me.
I’m offered a way to use the power every one of us is given at birth. Even before we experience the first traumatic passage from womb to this cold, bright place - we are equipped with the power of imagination.
Children just know how to play. How to use imagination to tackle every dragon, demon, opponent, and domestic dispute.
The artist living within your heart is able to draw upon that natural, spontaneous ability to express how “I” will uniquely face this new day, this new challenge, this new terror, this new offering.
Tiny green buds on the birch outside my window that yesterday fed my soul with a brilliant potent green healing - have this morning begun bursting into drooping flaccid pods preparing to send seeds on wing and wind to new adventures of growth, death, danger, discovery.
It’s not the pain that will consume me. It’s the anxiety and fear that the pain comes packaged in. How sure I am that I will lose face, lose control, lose the thread of security I’m so certain I need. I’m so sure that my only Hope lies in those things I use to ward off that pain. What would I do without Kawartha Dairy ice cream? How could I get through those dark nights of the soul?
Old friends, teachers, mentors, children, and the new friend waiting at the crest of the next hill encourage me to let go – not of the pain – but of the anxiety, the fear, the angst I’m carrying between gut and cerebral cortex – use my imagination, draw upon the flowing energy in all “things” and express that worry out and away from my heart. Keep it moving OUT so that I can keep moving on. BE GONE! OUT!
Out where I can see how that fear and anxiety and need for control can trip me up and get me stuck and fool me into some illusion that I need to be normal instead of the artist child parent man the MAKER put me here to be.
And so, following the leader I’ve chosen, who walks beside, ahead, behind, before and within me, I’m taking a cue from Matthew 13 verse 1
“and then jesus went and sat on the beach”