Wake up. Wake up. Stay awake because “you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cock crow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you, I say to all: stay awake.” –Mark 13:33-37
Richard Rohr wrote about this in his meditation for Monday, December 10. He urged us to get away from a fear based interpretation of this passage. He doesn’t think it means we should tremble at Jesus return to earth or that our death could catch up to us at any time and we’d better be ready, or else. He says it doesn’t mean “…Jesus is saying,’You’d better do it right, or I’m going to get you’…”
This fear based Christianity has seeped into my soul so deep it runs along my bones. I was a toddler when I heard thunder from the preacher’s mouth: If you were the only person who sinned, Jesus would have been tortured to save you, just you. If the communists came to your church and held up a gun, shouting, “Renounce Jesus or live,” what would you do? If a person dies without walking the aisle, accepting Jesus into their heart, they will go to hell. You don’t want them to ask at judgement why didn’t you tell me? One of the first things I remember is the picture I made for sin: a black icicle.
I’ve eased away from much of this, but the residue, pretty thick, remains. It saps my joy. I look over my shoulder wondering if people, if God love me like they say they do. I know I can’t even make it to the basics of following Jesus: feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner. I’m weary of the challenge, the never being enough, no matter how much I bless my enemy. I just want to find my way to joy, to gratitude for the good things I’ve been given.
Sometimes the pain wells up so I pack it with reading Facebook first thing, last thing, in between thing in my day. I think bad thoughts–thoughts welling up from my fear–I ruminate, and rumination leads to no good thing except losing a day to sadness or worry or frustration. So instead I lose whole days by sliding statuses, clicking articles on my phone. My good thoughts move away like horses to the far end of the pasture. Sometimes the fence breaks and I lose them, even though I live in a place that pleads with me to come, look, really look, and hear and smell and taste and feel with my skin and soul.
One morning the moon was rising in the east, a thin sliver and Orion was throwing his hip over the horizon in the west. Smoke billowed from Byron, the nuke plant. The stars ranged overhead, clear as you’d see them in the Adirondacks. The horses waited in the barn. I thought to myself why, why don’t I come out, here now, while the day is edging towards dawn, when the film between this world and the other thins?
One evening, the sun was gone, but the sky glowed. I poured old, hay scattered water out on the grass. Both mares watched me behind the gate. And late, late, when I walked the dogs the last time, I walked into the field, the ground rising up to my feet, almost as if it were breathing, my ankles wobbling, as I watched the lopsided moon, orange, hanging in the eastern sky, the Pleiades bleared above me. Think, think on this as you go to sleep, I thought.
Sometimes it can be too much to bear. Too much, so I stay inside.
Rohr continues in his meditation, “You see, Christ is always coming; God is always present. It’s we who aren’t! We’re always somewhere else, at least I often am. Jesus tells us to be conscious, to be awake, to be alert, to be alive. It’s the key to all spirituality, because that is the one thing we aren’t. Be honest. Most of us live on cruise control. We just go through the motions of our daily routines. We wake up and we repeat what we did the day before, and we’re upset if there are any interruptions.”
I do see. Christ does come when Night picks up his toy and prances, looking at me with bright eyes. Play with me, he says. I reach down and he turns his head. We dance a bit as I pretend to grab for it. Old dog Booker bows and hops after it if I toss it. But I don’t lose myself in the game. I’m not good at play.
Christ comes when Onyx hops into my lap while I’m planning my classes, nudging himself into my lap. Or when he jumps on the bed, knowing I’m awake and dips his head into my hands for petting, his smooth black coat, reaching to my hand.
He comes when Tessie drops her head to the floor, ears forward, saying look, look. And when we are walking along the trail and I have to drop into my body all the way to my toes in order to feel her body, to feel what she is telling me.
He comes when Morgen reaches around and grabs my treat bag, yanks it, because I’m somewhere else in my head and she is reminding me to come back, to come present. It comes when she stops while we’re driving, all the way up front, she feels my mind go blank through the reins. And I have to come back to feeling her in my hands, and watching her body, and speaking to her, telling her how good she’s being. All the while the world around us radiates glory.
He comes when Bruce hops out of the carriage to stand by Morgen’s head, show her that the chaotic barnyard is nothing to be afraid of. He comes when Bruce opens his arm to me in the morning or evening or at noonday and draws me up close.
If you’d like to read more of my writing, my novel, The River Caught Sunlight is available on sale for $.99 until the end of December at the following places: iBooks, Kindle, and Nook. It is also available in paperback from Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Books A Million.