Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Rejoice in the Lord Always"

"I say it again, rejoice!" I'm not a major Bible fiend in the sense that I can quote and then cite passages with perfect accuracy, but reading the Office of Readings sure gives me some awesome things to read each day, and I get a rush out of reflecting on the readings for each Sunday and finding some of the ways that they connect and send a message. Sometimes, context and full meaning aside, little passages and/or phrases just jump out to me...This portion of Philippians chapter 4 (verses 4-7, de hecho) always makes me think a little bit. I know this is a recurring theme I talk about, partially because my own journey right now and forever will always be about learning to trust and have faith, to hope, and to know the peace that comes from that, a mystery to those who experience it and confounding to those who see it from the outside.

One of the boys who was in the pabellón where I worked named Alfredo Navarro, 15 years old, has a benign brain tumor. Of course, when tumors decide to take up residence in the brain and are freaking large, it's hard to imagine a tumor being benign. He's had a biopsy and now has had a device put into his skull to help with fluid from accumulating and building up in the tumor's area. I need to visit him soon. A part of me is scared. Don't get me wrong, a part of me is selfish, but the selfishness and callous attitude I'm tempted to have comes from someplace completely unexpected: a fear. I know it's silly to post confessions on blogs, but hey, you all wanted to know me better, anyway. Lauren and I were the same year in the same school since age 5. We went K-8, Freshman to Senior year of high school at the same schools. Then we went to the same college. I remember when I first heard that she had cancer...I prayed for strength. I didn't pray for strength for me, or at least I didn't think so: I wanted strength to not doubt, to be there for others...and because I didn't want to acknowledge how awful a thing cancer is. She and I weren't best friends. We actually fought a bit back in 4th grade when I was acting up and stood behind her in line. Haha, I kissed the back of her head on accident in 3rd grade and was humiliated for the whole day. Everybody forgot within a day, at least as far as I know (though I was never one to be in the gossip circles, nor would said circles' opinions really influence me, so who knows?). In any case, we kinda went our separate ways in high school and college. But did we? There she was, a small reminder of home in a strange land in college, a reminder of what we both experienced at our parochial school in high school. And then we heard her cancer had come back, full force. And then she gave her final showcase the summer after freshman year of college in our high school's theater. One of the moments of my life I regret most, I think, happened that night. Instead of waiting to talk to her, instead of acknowledging how seeing her sing even though I knew that she was in pain and that she was tired made me feel both so sad and incredibly hopeful, instead of even just meeting her eyes and giving her a hug and saying hello...I bailed. I went with my friends who didn't go because they didn't feel they knew her (and a few who went but didn't know her well) and went in search of ice cream. I can't say I enjoyed my time with friends, I can't say I enjoyed the time I stole to avoid the discomfort of acknowledging that, unbeknownst to me before seeing the showcase, I was a little bit destroyed (a little, not totally) that she was not going to be a constant for the rest of college, that I'd only hear her astounding singing voice in youtube recordings made before I was 21...I was so terrified of facing that, and yet I was miserable not doing so.
I sometimes wonder, especially now that Alfredo reminds me of her situation, and even of her, with certain facial expressions he makes, how life would have been different if I had just stayed that night, if I had allowed myself to see her, if I had allowed myself to cry, if I had allowed myself to admit where I truly was in that moment. I doubt that life would be incredibly different, and yet the significance of that one small act/omission is vast. My mind has so many places to go with this thought.
The first thought is nothing new: a life lived in fear is hardly a life. It's the difference between surviving and thriving: it's a huge difference. You can read old blog posts to read about that.
The second thought relies on a quote from our pal St. Paul: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:28). Well, people can be against you, cooperate against the grace that's trying to be there, but the lovely thing about God is that...well, He Is Who Is. In the end, if we're receptive to Him, His grace is enough to bring us to what we all want. I look at the moments wherein I've let fear I've misattributed to strength or sensibility and my answer to Paul's question is, quite simply: We can be against us. We are our greatest and truest obstacle, and when we let fear or pride (the two actually go hand in hand, at least in my experience) call the shots, we don't give grace much opportunity to act. I mean, it's still God, so He doesn't ever give up, but yeah. I want to be strong, which I often take to mean hiding my weaknesses, not showing them, not even taking time to realize I need to confess them or justifying myself IN Confession.'s precisely in that brokenness that we can find grace waiting to wash us over, peace, love, and we can tune our strings to the true tone.
Third thought: People think of hospitals as depressing, and I can understand. There's so much illness, sickness, bureaucracy, dehumanization, mortality, etc. Somehow I see myself there for another reason, and perhaps not as a doctor or nurse. Perhaps due to experiences in the past, or my experience now with Alfredo, I feel like it's a place that offers so many profound invitations for us to recognize where we are, both in how we feel and that we are not perfect and that we need other people. I know that the feeling of there being people there to grasp your hands when you reach them out is incredible, affirming, strengthening, and ennobling. When that happens, there's a light that one can't help but ignore. In a way, it highlights some of the key points of the human experience: birth and death (clearly), but also how to deal with suffering, what it means to be social beings...I have begun to ramble.

I had a fourth thought, but sleep deprivation has killed it. Perhaps in a later post.

In the end, it boils down to more how one is rather than how one does. The latter will have significance only if the former is there. And I'd like to be in a place of trust, of rejoicing in the Lord at all times, in all things, always. I'd like to be in a place of faith.

God willing, I'll see him this week. Send prayers, any of you folks who still read...and feel free to send me your intentions, too!