How do you tell someone living with a chronic illness that GOD is with them, that their lives are blessed? I live with a chronic illness and I believe that GOD is with me, that I am blessed, so this question is of importance to me. How do I reconcile the reality of my suffering with the notion of a higher power working in my life? The answer, is, I think, interesting - when it comes from someone with my experience (I live with daily suffering and believe in a higher power). I don't think the question is at all interesting from someone who doesn't live with daily suffering and/or doesn't believe in a higher power. Negating something one doesn't believe in is intellectually naive. In other words, it's easy. I'm interested in what's hard.
Like waking up to another day that seethes at me from its horizon, rumbling ominously, shooting daggers into my heart. Waking to another day of sunshine that threatens to swallow me whole. A toxic bile bubbling in my veins, coloring everything radiator-fluid-green, and heavy - a heaviness in the bones that seems literally impossible to carry. Visions of violence and cruelty flash like cue cards, "This has happened to you. This will happen again. It is happening again. Don't move." Flowers, animals, fruit, bird song, clouds, creeks and campfires lose their medicine sometimes. Those times are wretched and arduous and bend the joy right out. And I pray.
I pray to be strong enough to bear it - to be strong enough to be present in it - to be connected, albeit delicately, to the idea that it won't last - it isn't real - my perception can shift - the storm can lift - it can because it has and it can again, even if it doesn't today. My job isn't to question why this happens, why me, why won't it stop, why can't I be free? I know it's not my job because I've tried to ask those questions and have never gotten any satisfactory answers. It's never produced anything worthy, only a bottomless pit of echoes and webs. There's no answers to those questions, not for anyone, ever. I learned this a long time ago, when I watched parents mourn their children who died young. When I was homeless on the bus in the Detroit winter, a teenager exposed to men who would try to kill me. When I came home to my house that had flooded with sewage and walked away with nothing but my Mother's bible (which miraculously survived). When I watched the world with its ancient histories of hatred, oppression, exploitation, deceit and greed. And so, for an empath, which I am, what sustains? What heals?
I have only felt the presence of GOD a few times in my life - the real, omnicient, pure light of love that transcends time and space and petty human concerns. I have felt it, though, and I have been obliterated by serenity, sunbeams shooting out my pores, weightless, a part of something much much greater than me. Or was I just drunk? I might've been, one or two of those times. But I haven't been drunk for a long long while and in my time of sobriety, I have felt it. I have felt buoyed and blessed and refreshed and linked. I have felt nothing but love in my heart and I have exhaled with peace. More often than not, though, I haven't. I haven't felt anything.
Or I have felt the despair of feeling nothing. I've felt this mortal coil to the point that I suspect its burning me from the inside out and all that will be left of me is a wisp of smoke. Ordinary, dire, arthritic, fading, faltered, frozen, numb. I have felt the hopelessness of hopelessness - I have fallen to the floor sobbing; I have preteneded to walk amongst the living, all the while, the cord's been cut and I'm in space and you're wherever and we shall never touch again.
It's pretty horrible. I don't feel the presence of GOD, I don't feel a part of something larger, I don't feel valuable or necessary or worthy in any way, shape or form. Most of the time. Such is the nature of my illness and such is the nature, I think, of some phases of life. And you know what? I still believe in GOD, I still believe I am loved and blessed and I still believe my life matters. Even in this wasteland, even from my cave. I can do this because of the nature of my faith.
Faith, to me, is itself when there is no proof that what I have faith in exists. Faith, to me, has nothing to do with material situations - quite the opposite. And what I have faith in is accessible - I do not believe GOD gives me good days or bad days. I don't believe GOD keeps me from getting a flat tire on the freeway or from being raped or from burying my best friend or from someone being rude to me. I also don't think GOD makes days magical and carefree, waving some glittery wand across the sky so that I find $20 on the sidewalk and can take my pals out for cupcakes. I don't believe GOD opens doors or closes doors. I think doors are material constructions with their own energy; I'm either in sync with them or not. And if they close, who's to say that's an indication of being out of sync? Maybe that's exactly how it's supposed to be. I would hazard to say, yes - my mother died when she was 50 because she died when she was 50 - and because it happened, it was meant to happen. It's in it having happened that I believe in fate. Up until that moment when it happens, though, it doesn't exist - who knows what will happen? I don't have a crystal ball. Though I have good instinct, and have been able to sense some things here & there in life, I really can't say what will or will not happen. And once it happens, well, what of it? I can make of it what I can make of it. And faith, in something bigger than me powering this whole turning, gives me the ability to be ok no matter what. Without strings attached, without the burden of proof, it's possible to turn anything into something meaningful. If I don't require my higher power to do things for me, I won't be disappointed in my higher power.
Sometimes I can't make much of anything. It can take all my energy to just make the bed. Not to mention get dressed, bike to work, work, bike home, take care of animals, pay bills, clean house. Mountains of impossibility, those simple tasks can be. That doesn't mean I'm not fulfilling a purpose or in a great stream of things. Perhaps my experience of suffering is serving a purpose, teaching me mysterious, tender, to-the-core truths about life and death. Perhaps it's building my compassion, and giving another person the opportunity to practice compassion toward me. I can't presume to know the purpose of the reality of things. As I wrote above, I've tried and that leads me nowhere. I need intellectual room - I need to feel I can spiritually expand - and deadends aren't roomy or expansive. It's entirely possible that I'm learning and growing through my pain and loneliness! Believing that produces a much nicer day than believing the opposite, period.
So yes, I suffer and yes, I believe GOD is working in my life. Especially because I can't feel it. Because I'm just a human being, my ability to conceive of the reasons of things is very limited, who am I to say? I can't be humble and presume to know anything. I can't feel the love of GOD if I'm putting terms and limitations on how that love is expressed. I woke up today, I'm breathing, I hugged a neighborhood elder who makes money dragging a garbage can around to collect cans. He's so thin, he's had a lifetime of hunger. He calls me "baby" and says, "As long as you're ok, I'm ok!" And that, my friends, is all the proof I need.
(there's so much to write on this subject, and I don't think I'm even writing well on it now, but it's important to me this morning so be it