Thursday, August 30, 2007

Some Connections

Originally posted at Tapestry on Aug.26, '07.

My own confusion apparently came through on my previous post. Comments I received all show a different understanding of what I meant. Or, perhaps I should say, different facets of understanding. As I say, I had, and still have, confusion about what I mean. I'm certain only that there is something important here. Perhaps only for me, perhaps for anyone else who will hear. It's something I'm on the verge of grasping, but haven't yet gotten a firm grip.

What follows may or may not be illuminating to me or my readers. I'm writing as I think, thinking as I write.

The element of connections was the start of it. I chose this word because what happened made me think of the television show called Connections wherein James Burke would take a modern concept/technology and say it was caused by a seemingly random, unrelated fact from back in history. Then starting with the historical fact he would lead the viewer through time and show how they were indeed connected.

I took an on-line quiz. I do these things for fun. I don't think such things are able to accurately determine anything about a person, although some of them do try to use valid research and psychological understanding. If I really wanted to know more about myself, serious introspection would prove more useful. The values of these quizzes is the entertainment. It's fun to see how close to my view of myself they come. Sometimes they make me think as well as laugh. Like this time.

When I got the results of this quiz, several things hit me all at once. Well, not quite "hit" and not quite "all at once." It was more like I read the results => I read something related => that reminded me of A => which reminded me of B, etc. These things happened over my lifetime and it is only now that I'm seeing any connections among them. They aren't quite a disparate as Burke's various facts, but the idea is the same... Because of A, B happened and that led to C... up to the present. (It's a lot easier to see how A led to Z than how A1 led to Z37.)

A) Sometime between the ages of 8 and 18 I developed an image of who I wanted to be at age 40. I don't think there was any specific impetus for this. I generally admired wise, calm serene women and that's what I wanted to be. I don't recall ever doing anything to become this person. I merely decided that is who I would be. I'm sure I thought about it now and then, but it was never front and center of my consciousness.

B) About the age of 12 I read an article (in Guideposts, I believe) stating that we are all the children of God and we should not forget it. I took it to heart and decided I would always remember that I was indeed a child of God. I don't know if this is because of A or not. The what had much more impact on my memory than the why.

C) Just shy of age 19 I became a "born-again" Christian. Of course, other things in my life at the time influenced my decision as well, but already believing I was a child of God was very motivating.

D) I spent the next 30 years in Fundamental Christianity. The best thing I got out of it was some good Bible study. (Though I'm hardly an advanced Bible scholar, I am a Bible student.) Although I know the subject of faith cannot be proven (by definition) I don't accept things about my faith blindly. I don't question everything at once and I don't question for the sake of questioning. I want to understand all that I am capable of understanding. An awful lot of people of any religious persuasion take whatever they're taught without thinking about it. I honestly don't understand this. So, through these years when the church I was attending could not satisfactorily explain something, I learned to keep my own counsel. For me, the true fundamentals of Christianity are summed up in Romans 10:9-10 "9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (NIV) Anything else has room for disagreement. Most Fundamentalists don't agree with me on this, but they don't always agree with each other, either. I've seen either 5, 7 or 12 "fundamentals" that must be adhered to to be a Fundamentalist. That's OK. Nonetheless, most of the people I met in church through the years were very nice people. Very few fit the rabid "Fundamentalist" stereotype.

E) As I approached age 50 I did not see that I had become the woman I had wanted to become. I was a bit disappointed in myself, but simply kept it as my goal, believing that I was headed in that direction. (I even wrote a humorous poem about it in 2003 or 2004.) 2004 was a year of extreme stress for me, but at the end of that year (or early 2005) my son told me how much he depended on my serenity and calmness!! Evidently I'd moved closer to my goal than I'd realized.

F) My sister took me to a "Get Over Yourself" seminar. I didn't feel like I'd learned much new, but I appreciated how it brought it all together. I developed my life vision at this seminar: I see a world where all people accept each other as friends and neighbors and celebrate each person's uniqueness as a vital part of everyone's life, like threads in a tapestry.

G) My son was misdiagnosed as having ADD in 2004. In our efforts to learn more about it, it seemed more and more that it described my problem with focus and organization. In 2006 I saw the (only local) psychiatrist who treats ADD patients. He agreed that I have ADD, but his approach is quite different from any I'd read. I get frustrated that every year I set goals to become organized and every year I'm about as disorganized as ever (2004 and 2005 were among the worst organization years). I'd never had a goal in life other than that image that I never really saw as a goal. I never have figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I simply went with the flow of life. At first, all I could think of was a 2 year old because he asked "Why?" to every thing I said. Why do I get frustrated? Why do I need a goal? Why do I need to accomplish something (since having ADD doesn't actually compromise my functionality)? (There were many more whys I don't specifically remember now.) Then he said something very profound. The only important goal anyone need accomplish is learning to love. And we must first learn to love ourselves in order to learn to love others. Now, I've heard this a thousand times just like everyone else has. I went home thinking that that was not what I expected a psychiatric visit would be like. But I kept replaying our conversation in my head and at some point and (((ring))) it resonated and I made a connection. Developing serenity, being a child of God, the Bible study, the life vision, these are all part of that process of learning to love myself and others.

H) In April 2007, I shared with the psychiatrist a transcript of a conversation I had with someone going through a crisis. His comment to me was that I was remarkably calm and therefore a good influence and help to this other person. I am still getting closer to my vision of who/what I want to be. It's one thing for a family member to say this, but for a trained professional to say it in the context it was in... can we say ego boost? :-) (And I don't mean that in the big headed ego sort of way.)

I) The quiz. I got a 100% on the positive quality of Peace! It's just an on-line quiz. It isn't accurate. I know myself well enough to say that. But still it's not 100% wrong either. It got me thinking. What is serenity but the "peace that passes understanding?" And I am a peace maker. I instinctively try to bring people together, to bring them to a calmness with each other despite differences. That made me look up the beatitude about being a peacemaker. "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Matthew 5:8-10 There you go! I didn't make it to Z, but I've come full circle. I am a child of God!

Then came the conversation with my brother. He considers himself a christian, with a small "c" because he's pretty unorthodox in many ways. He believes that Jesus died for our sins, but questions his divinity. He loves the Catholic Church in one sense, but thinks they really need to get with it and realize that the message needs to fit the age. He was confronted by the devil many years ago and chose God. (:-) Is there ever a more appropriate time to say "Hell, no!") What has been bothering him, what we were talking about (among other things theophilosophical) was the question of prayers. Why, when surely more people want and pray for it than not, do we not have world peace? Why are children starving to death every day? Why are poor children in Argentina (I think I have the right country) being killed merely because they are a nuisance to those who have the money to help them? Of course, we didn't get all the answers, but the main thing to come out were:

Matthew 25:39-40 (KJV)

39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

and John 15:10-12 (NIV)

10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.
11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

And he ended with the questions "What are we to do to bring world peace?" "What are we to do to save the starving children in the world?" "What are we to do to stop the killing in Argentina and help those children?" Unspoken was "What are we to do to about all the other problems in the world that the people, ordinary followers of Jesus can do?"

This is all part and parcel of the foregoing. The feeling of resistance is because doing something often means sacrifice and that's something we all resist (even Jesus asked the cup be taken away, though he had a much better reason since I don't think I'm going to be asked to give my life).

Also tied to this somehow, I think, is three nights of very restless sleep with dreams of death, and then waking up to an awareness of God's love. Death in a dream needn't mean an actual death, but the end of something. I don't think I'm having any premonitions. (I certainly hope not!) This does not mean, as I was asked, a change in my beliefs, but it may mean a new understanding. Romans 10:9-10 still holds true for me. I don't know what, specifically this change will be, if it is, indeed, related.

The mix of Bible versions is because I learned quotes from different versions at different times, and when I look them up, I find them using the words I remember.