Thursday, March 18, 2010

Facing Death

Have you ever been in a situation that you TRULY believed that there was a good chance that you were going to die? An accident or a diagnosis that caused you to really have to consider the fact that you might not only die, but die soon. I recently had such an experience and I have been paying attention to the what it has left in my mind, body and spirit.

We were on a trip over spring break and were flying into the bad storms that they were having on the east coast to land at the airport in Newark. The flight crew had warned us far in advance about the situation and told us to expect some turbulence. The flight was bumpy for much of the flight, but as we as we neared Newark it got really BAD. Someone came on the PA and told us that it was going to be a pretty rough ride but that they would have us on the ground soon. Then there was complete silence from the cockpit for the next 45 MINUTES (not SOON in my book) while the plane creaked and groaned and bucked and swayed. I REALLY thought that there was a possibility that I was going to die.

I’m going to say this again, I REALLY thought that I was staring death in the face. I know I’m being repetitive, but that part is very important, because I want to share my reaction to that thought and especially how I prayed during that time, or probably more accurately how I didn’t pray. Because, it helped me to become aware of something that I hadn’t realized before and it surprised me.

I never once prayed that I wouldn’t die or that we wouldn’t crash. Not once. And my kids were on the plane. You would think that I would have at least prayed that my kids wouldn’t die. The closest that I came was to say, “God, I really don’t want my kids to die.” Actually, the only way that I prayed was just to keep my heart open to whatever would be. To accept my death if it was to come. To accept the death of my husband and my kids if that was to come as well and to not give in to fear.

I did not get on that plane with some idea about how I would pray or react if I was faced with death. We all will always wonder how we will behave when that moment actually comes. I don’t possess some theology or dogma about not praying for my own safety. I know that some people don’t believe in asking for anything for themselves. That’s not me. I want and NEED God’s help and ask for whatever God is willing to give me.

Here’s what I now understand about why I didn’t pray to be saved. Because it would have been asking for myself to be excused from all of the suffering in the world. It would have been saying that it’s alright for God to let someone else die in a plane crash, die in an avalanche, have their whole family killed in an earthquake in Haiti, be kicked out on the street with no where to live, or live in constant fear of war, famine or starvation with no real way to protect your children, but I should be spared for some reason. In that moment, I was standing in solidarity with the people all over the world who were deeply suffering and who wouldn’t be spared.

While I didn’t feel that I should pray to be spared my own suffering, I do pray for all of those who suffer in the world and that God will use me as an instrument to help relieve their suffering. Not avoiding my own pain and fear is one of the ways that I pray.

When we have wept many tears and they flow like rivers
from our sad eyes
only then
does the deep hidden sigh of
our neighbor
become our own.
Julia Esquivel

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sacred Art

While chatting with a friend recently the topic of having too many books to read and to choose from came up, a subject that is something that I have given a lot of thought to recently. I told her that I had blogged about it and could send her the link so that she could read some of my thoughts.

“Oh, blogs.” She said the word as if something nasty was stuck to her tongue, her body slumped forward with weariness and the corners of her mouth turned down. “I hate blogs. They are just one more thing to read.”

I, of course, understand that the amount of reading material that we have at our disposal is overwhelming and so understood her sentiment. However, my desire was to share something about what I was processing in my own life. And so I said, “Well, sometimes they are a good way to let people in your life know what you are processing on a deeper level. The kind of thing that you can’t or don’t necessarily share in regular conversation.”

“Well, if someone really wants to share something in their life why can’t they just call me or email me?” , she asked. I tried to explain again that I wasn’t necessarily suggesting that she needed to follow my blog, I just thought that she might be interested in this particular subject and I would email her that particular blog.

“Oh, no. I don’t even want to think about it. The whole blog thing is just so burdensome. It wearies me.”

To which I responded with a guilty little giggle, “I have a blog about that, too.”

I realized that I was feeling defensive and a little hurt, so I shut up. But, I have continued to ponder this interaction and to question why it felt hurtful to me. I can completely understand how emails, blogs, and Facebook, can be a complete time and energy drain. I absolutely support her choice. I more than support it. I encourage her not to read blogs, including my own, if it would burden her life.

I think that I am hurt because of the seeming lack of interest in how I view what I do here at my blog. This is one of my expressions in the world, my creativity, my art. How I offer a deeper piece of myself. And in my opinion, it’s not fluff and I don’t put something down here just for the sake of filling up a page or to entertain.

The blogs that I follow are full of beauty, grace and truth. Really. And if it feels otherwise, well, I stop following them.

I have to wonder if it would be different if I had said that I had a painting that I wanted her to look at or a piece of music that I wanted her to hear. We look at writing as if it is something that anyone can do. Most people do it in some form every single day and therefore we stop thinking about how writing is so full of imagination and creativity. We don’t think of it as art. And certainly a blog, which sounds almost exactly like the word blah couldn’t possibly be an artistic outlet. But, for me, everything that is a vehicle for beauty, grace and truth is art.

So, I want all of you to know that today, I am celebrating you as the fabulous sacred artists of life that you are.

What are the ways that you are a vehicle for beauty, grace and truth in the world? What is your means of creativity and expression that may be overlooked or not considered art? I would love to hear.