Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ecclesiastes Revisited -- A Modern Take on an Old Search for Meaning -- Chap 7

I drove for hours without any direction. It seemed to matter little where I would end up. But, eventually, I decided to go home, meaning the home where I grew up.  Dad had passed but mom was there. She was only 72 but suffering from Parkinson disease. I had not been close to her in years, part of it--I have to admit--was my anger about her old pastor raping my brother and her doing nothing about it. But my criticism of her had softened.  Maybe she was doing the best she could with what she knew.

I moved into my old bedroom, not out of financial need but of emotional convenience.  She could use some help on the house, but I never dreamt that I would be sleeping in my old bunk bed when I turned 44.

As I was driving down from New York, I kept catching the glimpse of something ominous in my mirror . . . it was a dense, dark cloud rapidly approaching. I floored the SUV, to outrun it.  The cloud was a serious depression and I knew I couldn't let it engulf me.  If it caught up to me, then the swam of locusts would devour my flesh down to the bone.

Once I was home I kept running ahead of the cloud but by foot. A mile and a half the first day, then two the second.  I focused on running longer and longer.  I was tempted to get caught up in physical exercise to, not only escape the depression, but to give me a new sense of meaning.  But I had sat on the side lines while Linda attempted to find meaning in the physique. Eventually my body would fail, I will grow older and I will die flabby and out of shape. It was inevitable. So while running, five miles, then ten, was a bridge for meaning, I knew that it too was chasing, almost literally, after the wind.

With my background, I was able to land a commissioned job with the local Charles Schwab office and I settled into a new, maybe old, way of life while I either decided to search for meaning, to to give up.

Mother, being mother, didn't like leaving me at home a lone on Sunday mornings. But I knew in my heart of hearts that I could never darken the doors of her little Baptist church. Even though preacher Taylor had died a long time ago, from a  case of hepatitis after mysterious a trip to Bangkok, the memories were just too vivid.

But I did do a long run on Sunday mornings, and the run took me past the Rock Springs Community Church. I had to weave back and forth through people as I passed on the side walk. Most of them smiled. I saw on the marquee that their "Pastor Fisher" had a Ph.D.. I thought that would be a good plus.

So one Sunday, I ran earlier and got home to shower before 10:00 AM.  I decided to give God another chance and to enter Pastor Fisher's church.  I sat in the back. They were friendly.  I came back. They invited me to join. I went through the membership class and I became one of them.  Maybe it was done in too much haste, like a rebound relationship after a tough breakup. However, I was one of them before I knew it.

Church seemed very different to me than the decade earlier, when I had attended so faithfully.  I think the change was my encounter with Sophia one morning. She spit into the dirt, made balls of mud, pushed them into my ears and covered my eyes.  I didn't know what to expect. But when the clay dried out and crumbled, everything looked and sounded different than before.

What I would have consider powerful sermons in my twenties, now seemed like mind games. When the pastor pounded the podium and said that God wanted us to "put our shoulders to the plough and be part of Christ's church" my ears heard him saying, "I want to feel like I have value. To do so, I must succeed as a pastor. To proved to the denomination and to the community that I am successful, I must have big, visible programs.  To make these programs successful, every person must pitch in. This is really all about me."

I didn't like this new cynicism. It made me feel dirty. It also made me feel less likely to get involved. I didn't want to put my shoulder to the plough of helping someone else in their useless journey to find meaning. For that too would be chasing after the wind.

The Pastor pulled me aside one day and spoke directly to me, "I see that you've been a member here for six months and you aren't involved with anything.  God really spoke to me that I need to invest more in you.  I would like to disciple you and help to equip you to be a real church laborer."

This was deja vu. "Pastor," I said, "Do you realize that I was discipled deeply by some of the best in the business for ten years.  What are you offering that I have not suffered through?"

"I just don't sense the working of the Holy Spirit in your life.  I never see you volunteering for any of our ministries."

I felt perplexed.  Sophia was smiling at me, "He is manipulating you.  It is a mind game. He needs you to help him feel that he has meaning.  You are a cog."

I didn't like what she was saying so I brushed her off my shoulder.  I didn't sleep much that night.  In the morning I left a message for Sohpia that I wanted to have a heart to heart talk with her.  I was feeling that maybe Pastor Fisher was right, that I needed a more spiritual view than the cynical take that I had become accustom to.

The next morning I met Sophia for coffee.  I started with a few words of respect, "Sophia, I understand that you are the goddess of knowledge, reason and wisdom.  I know that you were there for Solomon . . . and for Socrates and for Einstein.  I respect you for not only how you've helped me, but how you've helped our culture. But I think I'm coming to the point that I need to leave you.  I need to walk by the spirit, not by reason. I need to step out of reason and into a life of walking by the Holy Spirit. I'm ready to let Pastor Fisher disciple me, if there I can find my place in God's purpose."

Sophia sipped her espresso and flashed a brief bitter expression. Then she smiled big.  She reached out and placed a comforting hand on mine.  She said nothing at first. I anticipated that she would say, "That's fine. I'm not offended by that." But she totally surprised me. She did speak again but with words I had never anticipated.

"Don't you know?"

"Know what?"

"You see . . . I am the Holy Spirit."


Tapji said...

Love it....this whole series has been exactly what i've been going through.. i love that the voice of reason is the holy spirit , as opposed to often being described as that "warm feeling" christians (And all other religious people) get.

Anonymous said...

If God is there, then He must represent truth. Then all that leads to truth must be from God. Pretending, psychological games, manipulations, warm feelings . . . all must be from somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

And in the original languages, the word usually translated as Holy Spirit is "ruach", a feminine noun.