"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
This week's topic in Blogger Idol is "Spirituality." I considered several approaches to it, some of which I may in fact do at a later time. However, I think this is the time to address a major event in my life that I have been silent about until now here in this venue. BTW, clicking on the button above will show the rest of this week's entries.
Murder is Not Enough
grace Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin gratia favor, charm, thanks, from gratus pleasing, grateful; akin to Sanskrit grnAti he praises
1 a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification b : a virtue coming from God c : a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
2 : what God has given to me, in so vast a measure I can't begin to comprehend it.
When I was young, I heard many people "give their testimony." Some of these people did this in church, some did it in club or informal gathering settings, and some just did it in their everyday life. A lot of the time, they seemed to be trying to make what they had done and lived through sound worse than it actually was so that the grace they had received would sound more all encompassing.
I had no idea that I would eventually lead a life that would make that sort of imagination unnecessary.
In fact, I would break every single one of the commandments, and do so willingly and gleefully in most cases.
Lying and coveting? Sure. Stealing? Yeah, on occasion. Taking the Lord's name in vain? Check. Not keeping the Sabbath holy? Check again. Honoring my father and mother? Yeah, did that one too.
But in the grand scheme of things, these always felt like "minor" sins.
Then there was one that was bigger. Adultery.
Been there, done that. But only once that I know of, and not once since I met my wife.
Then there is the monster of all sins.
By the time I got into college, I had a good dose of spirituality but at the same time was disillusioned with the organized church and anything that smelled like it. That included organizations like Campus Crusade and its like. I was just too offended at heart by the hypocrisy I saw there, and it drove me out the door.
It seemed to me that if Jesus was who He said He was, and I believed He was, people would not use Him as a social gimmick.
Actually, I still feel that way, but that's another blog entry.
I started dating a girl in my sophomore year whom I will call "M." She was actually the third or fourth girl I dated in college, and was a real looker. Dark hair cut in a really avant-guarde style, cute figure, beautiful eyes, and unfortunately, easily swayed. Those years I was a predator, and I am gravely ashamed to say that she was easy pickings.
I quickly tired of her, but the relationship just had a life of its own and dragged on and on, year stretched into year, and spring term of my senior year we were still dating.
In the meantime, I had been cruel to her more often than not. The poor thing really, truly loved me and I didn't deserve an instant of it. I loved her in return, but never intended for the relationship to last. I guess by saying I loved her I am really saying that I cared about her. I was just incapable of caring enough, for her or anyone else for that matter.
My spirituality had taken on a very narcissistic flavor.
I had been introduced to Taoism by one of my college classes, and it struck a chord in my heart. I devoured several translations of the Tao Te Ching, and in its pages found a man who seemed similar to my own view of myself. Then a friend introduced me to the I Ching, a quite accurate method of divination based on the principles underlying the Tao Te Ching.
I was hooked, just as surely as Solomon must have been in his time. The enemy had conquered me not by making me lose my faith, but by tempting me to dilute it. And I walked into the trap with a smile and a handshake.
Until the day when M told me she had missed her monthly cycle.
We waited a couple of weeks, and nothing happened. So I took her to the doctor and she had a test done.
There was no doubt that it was mine. She knew it and so did I.
But the only thoughts in my head were for me. I began to twist and warp my belief to fit what I wanted to hear.
"It's not really alive yet!"
"It's just a lump of tissue!"
"It's her body, she should be able to do what she wants with it!" (Which meant "What I want with it," not her.)
We talked, sitting in my brand new sportscar that my dad had bought for me, listening to the birds as spring was quickly giving place to summer. Whatever we did had to happen now. It could not wait until fall, because she would be in her third trimester by then.
I was convinced that I did not want this baby born, not on your life.
To me, it was a huge threat. If it was born, it would mean a tie, a commitment, and I did not want that.
I slammed my soul shut on my spirit, and talked M into an abortion.
We scheduled it for the next day. I took her there and waited in the waiting room while the "procedure" was performed. I saw some other people there that I knew, but none of us spoke or even looked at each other. We all knew why we were there.
It's not a person.
It's just a lump of flesh.
This is not a sin.
I repeated the mantra in my head, and closed the door to God for what would be years. You see, spirituality is not enough. Spirituality is like a robin's egg. The outside can look perfect, the insides well formed, but unless it has that spark of life in it, it is just so much omelet.
So, I sat there in the waiting room and murdered my child without so much as a tear.
M came out, weak and so pale, and she staggered to the car with the last of her strength. Now I can see, she knew. She knew what I had made her do. At the time, I gave her my supreme effort to convince her that this was a good thing, that there was no price to pay, that God did not look with disfavor on us.
And at that moment, my spiritual growth stopped.
Fast forward to 15 years ago. Florida. New Years dinner.
My wife's son comes in and wants to talk to me in private. We walk out into the driveway, leaving dinner on the table.
His girlfriend is pregnant. What should he do, he asks?
I find myself spending the next hour and a half telling him things that I didn't even know. I told him how life was precious, how this life was especially precious, how he needed to now take responsibility for it and she needed to have this baby.
He agreed, and they were engaged in just a few days, and married soon after. Their beautiful baby girl is now my granddaughter.
I, however, was more bewildered than convinced. God had used me like Balaam's ass, I had spoken what He wanted spoken, but I did not really believe it myself.
Until a few years later, when in a church service it hit me like a ton of bricks.
That's what I had done.
Murdered my only child.
I was stunned, tears ran down my cheeks. Now I knew. The door inside me was opened again.
And I was desolate. How great a crime was this? Was there a greater, more despicable, more vile thing ever done by a man?
And in the midst of the darkness, a light.
There was Grace.
Sufficient even for this.
Then, and only then, my wounded soul began its healing.
Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty.
Simone Weil (1909 - 1943), Gravity and Grace, 1947