I’ve been really sick for the past several days – like can’t get out of bed sick. You newbies should know that I suffer from Lyme disease. I mean, I’m recovering from Lyme disease. I’ve been recovering for almost three years. Sometimes Lyme leaves me alone, but when it hits, I feel like a butterfly who some bastard is trying to pin down into one of those awful display boxes. My body becomes literally pinned to my bed as if by centrifugal force – every limb weighs a million pounds and the aches in each joint are ridiculous. My mind becomes foggy – chronic Lyme is neurological – but I’m just coherent enough to know that I’m not at all coherent. I can’t think of the right words, which is a lot of fun for a writer. My mind panics. Panics, panics, panics. Why won’t you work? What if you never work again? And what about all my dreams? Another baby, a writing career, not totally sucking as a wife and a mom and friend, SIMPLY REMAINING VERTICAL….is none of it going to happen because of a damn TICK? My soul knows, always knows, that all is well. But my mind and my body- they fight that knowledge.
When I’m Lymie, neither my body nor my mind is my friend. Last night I lay pinned to my bed considering how wondrous it would be to get rid of this broken body and spastic mind and become all soul. That’s how I imagine entering heaven . . . it’ll be like stepping out of the freezing cold and into a toasty family room – shedding my mind and body like a heavy coat and itchy scarf. Sitting my soul down in front of the fire.
I’m a skinny girl, and skinny has been in this past few decades. When I was eight, I started worrying I’d be fat and spent the next twenty years being bulimic. After I stopped binging and purging, I turned out to be naturally skinny. Probably would have been all along if I’d just left well enough alone. So annoying. What a waste of time and tooth enamel.
Anyway – whenever women mention that they’re jealous of my body, I consider that I’d happily take on an extra twenty if it meant I could have a body that worked right, a body upon which I could depend. I guess the ass is always greener.
I got a few respectful but concerned emails yesterday regarding the family we helped in Atlanta. In short- these people were wondering if it was responsible of Momastery to support a woman who continued to have children while knowing she couldn’t support them.
I’m not going to have that conversation right now, except to say that I am not in the business of deciding which human beings are deserving of help and which aren’t. That’s a slippery slope, and one that a girl like me must avoid like the plague. I spent the first twenty years of my life with my arms open wide, accepting gifts from God and family and friends and promptly walking over to the trash can and throwing them in. By the time I was helped out of my crappy life once and for all, I certainly didn’t deserve it. But help came anyway. Grace, I believe it’s called. Undeserved favor. Grace is scandalous, and I can see how someone who has lived a responsible life might get frustrated by it. I really, really can. Grace is totally unfair. So, that’s the bad news. The good news is that if you ever need help- we will be here to offer it. And you can bet your Monkee bottom that we won’t be concerned with whether or not you deserve it. You’re worthy of love and grace just because you are.
Since I write about God a lot, people often ask me to explain Himself.
They send me pictures of earthquake victims and babies with cancer and they say, “How can you believe in a god who would allow this to happen?”
I always tell them the truth, which is: I don’t know. Seems totally ridiculous, doesn’t it? I just don’t know.
Mostly, I have three prayers. I imagine them as huge signs – billboard sized signs – that I hold up toward the sky throughout the day, in hopes God’ll see them. The first sign says: Come in! The second says: THANK YOU! And the third says: WTF?????
Many of you will write to me today. You will be angry about the irreverence of a WTF sign to God. You will tell me I shouldn’t write like that, shouldn’t think like that, even. But I don’t write what I should think, I write what I actually think. And I think it’s irreverent NOT to tell the truth. My truth is that I feel just as angry at God as those who write to me do. Maybe more so, because those people aren’t always writing about how GOOD He is all the time. They got less ‘splainin to do. The truth is that I think piety is sometimes inappropriate in the face of the insane suffering and pain that people face. And if we want to get biblical, we could discuss the fact that most of the Psalms are one giant WTF???? sign to God.
I’ve sat with a friend whose son just drowned in a river. I’ve stood in a room with two families whose children just died of cancer. I’ve felt two adoptions – two babies – slip through my hands like sand. I’ve sat on a hard floor with my Sister’s head in my lap while her marriage fell apart. I’ve held a best friend’s hand minutes after she discovered that her husband was cheating and leaving. In none of these situations did I feel like the appropriate reaction was to give thanks, to assure a suffering person that everything happens for a reason. Jesus. We get to gratitude, eventually. Slowly, slowly, impossibly slowly. But we’ve gotta get through the WTF? Stage first. Kind of like how Jesus, on the cross…said, “My God, WHY have you forsaken me?” If Jesus is allowed to feel abandoned, than I think it’s okay that we occasionally do too, and that we tell the truth about how that feels.
And even so.
I believe. I do. I believe that in the midst of all of life’s chaos and clatter and awful, awful noise there is a constant note – a frequency that vibrates softly but certainly – and some people can handle the awful banging and clanging of life’s suffering because they can somehow tune in to that one glorious note. And that note is what I call God. Jesus. You call it what you’d like. I just want you to listen for it. Eventually, you will dance to it. Even amidst the clanging.
In the meantime- here is a story for you. About God. About the clanging and about the note.
By God, There Will Be Dancing
I am sitting in a quiet bedroom with God. We are alone – the two of us. I am perched on the edge of a four poster bed and my legs are dangling off the side. God is in a rocking chair across the room and She’s knitting. God knits, it turns out. She also rides a Harley, but never while knitting.
I am pissed at God, so I’m glaring at her while She rocks and knits.
She won’t ask me what’s wrong. I’m waiting for Her to ask. I’m dying for Her to ask. I sigh. I breathe as deeply and loudly and with as much angst as possible.
Nothing from Her. Nothing disturbs Her peace, nothing breaks Her concentration. She is not curious.
So I just start.
Why would you say all of those things about caring for orphans and make me love them so much and then lead me on a seven year wild goose chase and then leave me empty handed? This adoption’s going to fall through, isn’t it? You’re going to leave me empty handed, aren’t you? Aren’t you? I know you are.
Please don’t. If you do, that’s it for us. I’m not kidding. I’ll quit trying not to be a jerk. I’ll quit writing. I’ll quit talking to you and caring about other people and smiling so much. I’ll spend all my money on fancy make-up and couches and I’ll spend all my time watching Real Housewives of Orange County. No. Housewives of NEW JERSEY. Take that. I’m serious. Friendship with you is too exhausting. I’m going to have to quit you, based on principle and utter confusion. If you don’t pull through for me this time- it’s atheism for me. Atheism. I’m so serious.
God keeps knitting. Then She smiles and holds Her stitch for a moment. She looks up at me with her soft crinkly eyes and She says:
Honey. You are so angry. I understand. I love you so much. Would you like me to stop knitting so that we can talk about all of this?”
I think for a minute and look at the knitting in her lap. I gaze at the part that’s done. It’s breathtaking. All blue and green and hot pink and gold and silver. At first the colors seem to swirl wildly but then, suddenly, I recognize a pattern. The pattern is me. I am beautiful. Swirly, wild, and beautiful.
No, I Say. Don’t stop. Keep knitting.
Because She is knitting my life, of course. I am what Her hands are working on. And I want Her to concentrate. I still trust Her.
God? I say. I’m going to dance. While you knit, I’m just going to dance. I don’t really know what else to do.
And God looks up one last time and I see that Her eyes are twinkling this time.
Oh, Good. That’s all I’ve ever wanted you to do, Sweetheart. You dance and I’ll keep knitting. It’s going to be beautiful, Honey. I promise. Just Dance. I’ve got this.
Kay, I say.
Tomorrow: WE DANCE.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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