I am now at the Greater Binghamton Health Center as a chaplain. My role is to relate with patients and help them draw upon religion and spirituality as resources for their mental health. The transition to there has been easy as many there are hungry for divine input and desire for a better life. The transition back home to live with my wife in our own home is easy as well. At least from my perspective! Seriously, I believe it is good for her too! I am still pursuing leads for part-time work and am scheming other ways to increase my income. I expect the puzzle to be complete in the near future.
In a transition like this, trust matters. I am trusting God, life, myself and others. While I cannot predict the future I can step forward applying myself to secure what I need to perform meaningful service in the world. I just don't know what that looks like yet! And I have a choice - be anxious about the future or be creative in the present. There is a song that advises: "Breathe, just breathe." Breath is a gift that has a powerful affect upon us as we face challenges or even the unknown. We always have it with us. We also always have the unknown before us. God may seem an unknown as may God's will and God's providence for us. And so we are called to be brave and courageous, not so much in how we act but in our presence or being. All I can really do is say in answer to God's call is here I am all present and accounted for. I might not know my orders, but I know my purpose and I know who and what I serve. The wonderful thing about that song, "Breathe' is that for as long as I live I don't have to do anything in order to breathe. And if anxiety hits, all I have to is be aware of breath and breathing as I embrace the moment before me and enter into it.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Pushing the Rock
Wilfredo J Baez
Take a deep breath and put aside your worries and concerns, however big or little they are . . . and take another deep breath and set aside your worries and weariness . . . you can pick them up later but for now, if you will, set them aside and simply be, nothing to do except listen to a scripture, a story and a word . . . nothing to do but let God’s word drop like a small stone into the pond of your consciousness, your spiritual mind . . . feel the ripple in still water reverberate in you, in your heart, your mind, your soul, your being . . . peace . . .
4Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 1: 4-8
I don’t remember whether the character in this story is a man or a woman. It can be either, so let the character be you . . .
You wake up one morning and you hear a voice, a divine voice you are sure, and the voice directs you to a large boulder in your front yard and tells you that you are to push on this boulder. You look at the boulder and say to the voice, “It is so big! I’ll never be able to move it!” And the divine voice tells you, “Push on the rock until I tell you not to.” You respond to the voice, “I’ll start tomorrow” and the voice tells you in an authoritarian tone, “Start pushing now!” And you begin. All morning, all afternoon, all evening you push on the boulder, stopping only to eat and drink water, until it’s time to retire for bed. You get a full night’s rest. You get the interest of a neighbor or two who watch in silence as you push on the rock. The next day after breakfast you return to the boulder and push and push, all day, all night and you continue pushing on the rock day after day, month after month, year after year . . .
At this point your family and friends have questioned you. You have explained that a divine voice has ordered you to this task and they shake their head in wonder as you continue to push. Your neighbors have surrounded you and have begun to ask you what you are doing. When you told them that you are following a divine command they begin to mock you and call into question your sanity. Years have gone by. You have pushed in rain and shine and wind and snow, faithful to your task.
Finally, true to your path as you are, you begin to doubt and cry out to God, “Give me strength to move this boulder!” Finally, you scream in anguish “God, take away this boulder. I have tried my hardest to move it. I cannot! Was it even you who gave me this task? Am I delusional?” The voice boomed down from heaven. “Yes it was me. But why are you thinking that your task is to move the boulder. The task I gave you was to push it. You have been faithful in the task I have given you. Now, look at you, so strong and fit! Your hands, arms, your neck, your shoulders, your back, your legs they are so well toned and so powerful. You are well prepared for the job I have for you!”
The stress in our lives can be like such a boulder as this; huge and unmovable. We push on it day and night, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year . . . perhaps even lifetime after lifetime. And there it is greeting us each day, perhaps looming larger, an invincible obstacle perhaps seeming smaller, an irritant. We push and push thinking the boulder is bad, that it shouldn’t be there, angry even with God for putting it there. We have to get rid of it! Or stressors may lurk around us, tossing stones at us, causing us to evade their path. Or stressors exist in us like sleeper cells, awakening within us and overwhelming our nervous systems. It is quite possible that we will always have stressors.
That’s how I have been with my boulders, dealing with them the best way I know how, misunderstanding God’s task for me, thinking I have to move them, when God has just said push on them. Finally, I realize I don’t have to move the boulders but in pushing on them I can gain. I can learn something about doing God’s will, no more and no less and facing my problems, not trying to eliminate them, but relating to them, understanding them and becoming stronger on account of them.
And so, if cannot move the boulders, how can you make use of them? If you cannot remove your stressors how can you relate to them differently? How might you even make them your friends and allies? And if your job is to push on the boulder how can you take a breath and find respite from them? Perhaps as you push on the boulder you are becoming boulders yourselves, stronger and unmovable in your own right, able to withstand any onslaught of stressors from around you or within you, being prepared for some next step in your journeys, some task you need to perform that helps yourself and others. Remember you help others more when you heal yourself.
Perhaps pushing on a boulder is doing something you don’t understand or don’t want to but which helps you for life after pushing on the boulder. Maybe mental health treatment is preparing you for life outside of mental health treatment.
Perhaps mastery is not in moving the boulders and stressors in our lives but in accepting them, relating with them, knowing them and abiding with them, until we no longer have need of them. I leave you with this question. As you consider the boulder in your life, where is God in your boulder or relationship with your boulder? Will you relax and trust God as you relate to your boulder, relying upon God’s direction about how to relate to your boulder.