Sunday, September 27, 2009

Listening and surrender

After too long a hiatus, I returned to church today. The topic as are all this month are about listening. Today the theme of surrender was developed.

Sometimes my life baffles me. After the service, I went down to sign up for the small groups at church that will discuss the sermon themes. But when I got there, I didn't see where to sign up, and became distracted, and did everything but what I set out to do. Since this was the last day for sign up, I shall simply use this venue to share my thoughts of upcoming sermons for those who might care to read them.

It would be easy to kick myself repeatedly over my apparent stupidity today. But it would be not the right thing to do. In a real sense I have to come to grips with the person I am becoming. With age the brain gets cluttered and stupid moves are part of the course. If what I do is stupid, that doesn't necessarily translate to my being stupid. Prone to distraction? Yes. Prone to forget? Definitely. But not stupid. There are things I can do of course and I'm working on that. But sometimes I'm just going to mess some things up.

So back to the topic which was surrender. I thank whatever spiritual source is out there for surrender. It was when I began to learn the lesson, that my life was literally yanked from the jaws of death.

Way back in 1984, I was a horrible mess. I drank enough to black out on an almost daily basis. My job which ordinarily would have been secure was in jeopardy. My mom who if I got into financial difficulty or arrested could be relied upon to bail me out, figuratively and literally, retired and was no longer able to do that sort of thing. Of course all my spare income was going to fill the habit, alcohol and certain narcotic agents that were useful at the time. I had been arrested. I had been hospitalized for alcohol overdose. But finally one night in a drunken stupor, I suddenly entered a completely sober state. I could see what lay ahead and what my choices were. It was then I went to seek help, first to a psychiatrist, who referred me to a 12 step program.

Over the next weeks and months I learned surrender. My sponsor did not have the education I had, but turned out to be a really smart guy. One day he asked me, "You think you are smart eh?"

"I'm smart enough." I replied.

"College and all that?"


"Too bad. Smart people get drunk."

Wtf? Yeah that is what I said. He then explained it to me in words even I could understand. Smart people complicate things. They twist it to mean what they want it to mean. But to understand this program, to grasp what I needed to grasp, I had to quit being smart. Rather I had to become teachable.

He said, "plenty of time later on to get all analytical again. But here you have to let go. You have to surrender. You have to step outside yourself. Are you teachable?"

I said yes and he said we shall see. Not at once, but over time, I learned the wisdom of his words. He taught me how to step outside myself. I'd come to him whining about how cruel life had been to me and how I was having this and that problem. He'd look at me and start telling me about his life, and I'd forget what I was so upset about and soon I was helping him with his issues. Did you know it was a good six months before I figured out he was doing that on purpose? Service to others is the surest way to get out of ourselves.

He would take me on gratitude rides, down to skid row to visit with the folks on the street. We went to the hospitals to meet with those there either voluntarily or involuntarily. Somehow by grace I became teachable.

It wasn't the last time I've had to surrender. It happens with far greater regularity than I would like. When my partner Skip died, and a few weeks later my close friend Dee passed away, I had to just let go and focus all my energy to living one moment at a time for months while I healed. I wasn't capable of anything else. Looking back on those days, it truly was a miracle what happened. In and out of my life, gentle loving people entered, holding me aloft while I healed. I couldn't do it. It was something greater that was going on. That interconnected web of existence we talk about. Real live people coming in and touching my life, holding me, reminding me on some level at least that I also was still alive and we were all part of something far greater.

I'm 62 years old now. Life is pretty good. I'm surrendering to my unquenchable passion for food and more importantly the reality that I can't eat anything I want when I want it, and am trying to live in a more healthy manner. I don't know if I have a day, a month, a year, a decade, or even two or three decades left in this journey. I find myself thinking more about that inevitable journey that awaits, and have begun preparations for that day. But more than ever, it drives home also the sheer miracle of today, the miracle of now. Today I'm alive, and today I'm not alone but part of something much bigger than I am. Today I'm far more teachable than that shattered soul who sought help those years ago.

It is the contradiction, the paradox of spirituality. In dying to our self do we live. In surrendering all we become wealthy beyond belief. Though I have very little money and less in savings, I'm a wealthy woman. In surrendering to the greater, in abandoning the self, I've been made whole. There is no greater treasure. Very imperfect of course, but with others, even that can be improved upon. Heaven is not some place in the future in the sky. It is here, and it is now.

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