Til Death Do Us Part

It’s the last phrase in the old, traditional wedding vows. The couple claims to do a bunch of stuff to keep their marriage going and then finally swear they’ll do it until death separates them. It’s a pretty remarkable claim. The checklist covered in the vows is never checked again or referenced for the rest of the marriage. In the twenty years I’ve been married, we’ve never dragged those vows back out to remind one another what we claimed we would do. When we run into trouble and go see a counselor, he or she never asked for a list of our vows and then asks how we’re doing.

Now that I think about it, I think if I could go back, I would add some more practical vows for my wife to say to me like “I promise to not wake you up when you’re snoring at 800 db at night -TIL DEATH DO US PART- “. If my wife would have made me say “I promise to adore you when you haven’t shaved in a week, have your hair in a bun, and haven’t used makeup” -TIL DEATH DO US PART-“, I would have to consider on a more realistic level what I’m committing to. Those kind of things would make people think twice when they’re saying them or thinking about saying them. No one cares about committing to the “for richer or poorer” part when all they’re thinking about is warm and fuzzy marriage(sex}. Throw a commitment to bad breath in there and you got a survivor challenge. The challenge of a relationship lies in the day to day details and not so much the definition.

It doesn’t matter what you claim, the deeper meaning of any vows you come up with is that you’re in it for the long haul…”for better or for worse”.

My wife’s mom and dad have been married 60+ years. Her mom is coming to the end of a decade long struggle with Alzheimer’s. She will pass away in the next day or two. Death will divide Robert and Wanda until they see each other again in eternity. They have completed their vows. They have both not only succeeded in doing all that stuff they vowed to do, they should receive awards on their style in making it. My wife and I have only been married for 21 years in May. We’re rookies in comparison with Robert and Wanda. They been great models throughout our time together.

This week is going to be tough on our family, but it will be especially hard on my wife. She has already lost two sisters over the period of time her mom has had this dreaded disease. I have horrible memories of her sisters’ deaths because I was not very helpful or supportive of my wife when they died. Not because I’m a coldhearted ass but because I am mentally and psychologically unable to properly handle death. I’ve seen people die, I’ve seen dead people, friends have died, my mom and dad both died. A friends wife died of cancer and I never went to see her. It was a long time ago but I regret that to this day. I can’t tell you why I did that. It’s very confusing, shadowy area of my life. Oh, and I do not do viewings at funerals. That’s a big nope. (The funeral process is a whole other blog post). I’m not scared of death for myself. I believe that Jesus Christ died for me and everyone else on the cross and I don’t worry about that.

I dived into facing this newest scenario. I went to see my mother-in-law twice now since she’s become completely incapacitated. It is incredibly uncomfortable for me. The first time, I had to walk out of the room. I stood in the hallway staring out a window thinking about Wanda. There was a big field outside the hospice window with green grass, trees, flowers and a big fence. I thought, she will soon be enjoying those things again very soon and I’ll still be on this side of the fence. I felt the presence of God while I stood there.  I almost said out loud “You are with me though”. I then felt God impress upon me that I need to be there for my wife on this side of the fence. I need to be present for her every moment.

I’m understanding now that death is really a nuclear blast where the ripples from the blast can go on forever and their directions are unpredictable. It is was not God’s normal plan for us. It should be an uncomfortable reminder of how we are a mist in this world. We can’t plan for the aftermath. We can only be present for one another until we get through it. I don’t have to respond perfectly or fix anything. I can cry, sit down or laugh. I can’t escape it so it is foolishness to hide and hope it goes away. I have to be present.

Robert and Wanda will successfully finish their vows. Stacey and I will live to see another day(God willing) and one day finish our vows as well.

Realization of Darkness

Thomas Merton talks a lot about the ability to sit still and recognize the darkness in ourselves which then enables us to receive light, or THE Light. I don’t know how in my 30 years as a believer I am just now reading Thomas Merton but thank goodness I am. I have to give credit to a lot of current authors that I stumbled across that have directed me to his stuff: Richard Rohr and Ed Cyzewski.

In the past, as I slumped into dark times and despair that’s all that existed and I would just suffer through it. I’ve always kind of joked that during those times sometimes Satan overplayed his hand and it pushed me back toward safety in acknowledging Christ in me. No need to despair.

Now  that I’ve had a little input from Merton and the others, I am able to be quiet and absorb what is happening and not wait until I’m ready to die to realize that God is in me and is with me. “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” It’s during these times that I can accept this light more than any other time.

I’m quicker to divert from my attempts at fixing things. The waiting is easier. By waiting, I mean acknowledging his presence and not necessarily expecting him to fix it ASAP. I have a whole different perspective on how my faith works during these times. I don’t simply want to just hurry back to comfort(I have a powerful desire for comfort). In Paul’s words, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

I suppose the struggle that buries me is listening to my external self trying to fulfill it’s love of comfort at all costs. When my internal self, the real me, realizes these things aren’t the priority in my life and that I’m already victorious, I can rest and know that God is in control and act accordingly.

Just some thoughts.

The Problem With Social Media…again.

“The artist may well receive the first taste of infused prayer . . . and often quite soon in their spiritual life, especially when the conditions are favorable: but, because of this tragic Promethean tendency to exploit every experience as material for ‘creation,’ the artist may remain there all his life on the threshold, never entering into the banquet, but always running back into the street to tell the passers-by of the wonderful music he has heard coming from inside the palace of the King!”

—Thomas Merton, Echoing Silence

I ditched Facebook and Twitter back in October of 2018. I was tired of looking at the world, it’s wonders and all the activities in it as a possible post.

I get daily emails from author Ed Cyzewski and today he shared the Merton quote above and it really struck a cord.

I believe it touches on a problem that is “common to man” in this age related to all media but especially social media. The most troubling part is the social justice aspect. Merton is talking about prayer but it reminded me of the same thought process behind my drive to post something to social media. I looked at everything as a possible post without really absorbing what it means and what to do with it. I’ve shared this before, no shock. Many people post to social media without ever actually getting in the battle. Myself included. It may not be comparable to entering the banquet since the battle for the King is less desirable than entering the King’s banquet. We post an injustice alert, inspirational quote, bible verse that sound good without living it out. Then walk away proud to have contributed so deeply into everyone’s life.

I’ve been off social media 5 months and still see things as potential posts. I guess this is part of the withdrawal process.

Social Media Recovery

Who the hell is obsessed with their phone on vacation?! Uh…that would apparently be me. In the real world, I was on vacation alternating between sitting on the beach and sifting through my social media apps. I was mentally not present, existing in the under belly of a second world.

Searching for that perfect post, my ultimate purpose of existing in this underground was to find something new to entertain my own second world community. That is the ultimate responsibility of any social media-ite. What’s troubling is I realized that for years I’ve been constantly evaluating everything that crossed my mind throughout my real world day as a possible post to pass on to the second world. Sometimes an original thought/experience. Sometimes a soon-to-be overly shared meme. Sometimes I’m lazy and just repost or share. You would think being on vacation would be so satisfying that I could put the second world on hold. Nope.

socialmedia

Writing clever little posts is just a kindergarten version of what I truly like to do…write.  But, the obsession with the creation of a new post is making me stop short of bigger goals: my blog and a book I’ve been trying to write for 5 years. I’m wasting so much time reading and posting to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, I’m not spending anytime thinking or writing about anything in depth.

So it ended a week ago.

I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone. I kept Instagram because it’s the only app my wife and children all use. I don’t like Instagram, and only follow my family and a few friends, so I will spending very little time on it. I’m already seeing that I spend a miniscule fraction of the time I was on the others.

I will not rejoin the others until I stop thinking in terms of “should I post that?” every minute of the day. Since removing the apps from my phone, I’m not looking at my phone all day but I do still catch myself thinking “I need to post that!”

I know there are positive aspects of social media but they are not outweighed by my desire to freely think through something instead of finding a way to format it into a post and being done with it.

I want to absorb and ponder. It is so superficial to think in terms of how to word a thought instead of pursuing the thought for deeper meanings and application. Instead of immediately passing on a thought, I want it to affect who I am. I want things to cause me to evaluate what I’m experiencing. Then, I want to share it with other people face to face. I can’t help but think this is making the best of what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 5:15-17, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

I have to get rid of the noise in my head. How can I process and understand what the Lord’s will is if I glean life solely for the purpose of posting?

I want to strive to be better.

Everyone needs to stand down!

I went to China many years ago for the first time. I was told how the government would possibly jail us if we were seen/caught giving out bibles. I was anxious about my visit because of the news stories I heard about China. I was sure someone would turn us in. However, the people were shockingly different from what I expected. They were hospitable and went over the top to accommodate us on anything we needed.

Similarly, the people in our country are perceived to be crazy. Our news outlets do not accurately represent who we are as a people because of the government’s self-serving rhetoric. Our leaders openly push and represent views that are shocking…killing babies or separating them from parents or relatives. Their goal is to keep us at odds with one another by fear.

But their claims of the evils of America are NOT the Americans I know…conservative, liberal or moderate. The majority of the people I know want peace, justice and success for the people in our country. We have hearts and want the best for our fellow human beings.

We get caught up on social media espousing our views but we still go out day to day and help others even contrary to what others declare elsewhere. What else can we do??

How do we focus on THAT? Like the people in China, let’s shock the people we meet in our lives with our love and kindness. This will overwhelm the preconceived notions we have against one another.

How about we stop focusing on the detailed specifics about fixing the entire country to suit our beliefs and just be sacrificially giving to others? Then, shut the hell up about everything else. I imagine wanting the best for others will propagate the results we want rather than attacking each other.

We can continue letting fear drive us, or let love overcomes all things. Ever read 1 Corinthians 13?