Jun 21, 2006

Where to Now, St. Peter?

So where to now, St. Peter?
If it's true I'm in your hands
I may not be a Christian
But I've done all one man can
I understand I'm on the road
Where all that was is gone
So where to now, St. Peter?
Show me which road I'm on
-- Bernie Taupin

No one gets everything handed to them. As Roseanne Rosanna Danna said, "it's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another." Once Larry and I found each other, Bob's Your Uncle, we found ourselves in financial slumps. Me, ALMOST booking 9 commercials, other jobs vanishing; Larry waiting and waiting ... and waiting, on a film to start that may not even pay him a living wage. The strain of not knowing, the dwindling bank accounts, don't make for great wedding planning. In fact, it makes for no wedding. Granted, neither of us want a mondo event. (check out the statistics at the obscenely titled sellmoreweddings.com.) But the reality is, I need some stability, or the promise of it, before I feel OK to tie the knot.

We wrapped up our premarital counseling and the therapist kinda stuck it to Larry: "What are you gonna do? It's your job to provide. Your future wife isn't being materialistic -- women have a greater need for security. A man can live in a box. As long as he has a stereo."
"And paper plates," Larry added.
"But a woman needs a home to be a sanctuary, a safe place," the therapist said.

I'm glad I'm not materialistic for feeling it.

I went home and read the previous days of my devotional. I ought to be doing something spiritual. After all, Larry and I were supposedly going to fast and pray. Well, he was calling it a fast. I was calling it a hunger strike.

June 19: Poverty, hardship, and misfortune have propelled many a life to moral heroism and spiritual greatness. Difficulties challenge our energy and our perseverance but bring the strongest qualities of the soul to life. If God has chosen special trials for you to endure, be assured he has kept a very special place for you in his heart. A badly bruised soul is one who is chosen.

I agree, every person whose character I admire has gone through trials. But the statement, “A badly bruised soul is one who is chosen” sounds like abusive parenting.

June 20: When we have doubts or are facing difficulties, when others suggest courses of action that are conflicting, when caution dictates one approach but faith another, we should be still. We should quiet each intruding person, calm ourselves in the sacred stillness of God’s presence, study his word for guidance, and focus our attention on him. Soon he will reveal a sense of his direction. You will have a deeper concept of who he is, and his heart of love. All this will be your gift, a heavenly experience, a precious eternal privilege and the rich reward for the long hours of waiting.

I read the above entry and felt a twitch of hope. Something stirred me in me. "Yeah, go to God and he will answer. Wait in anticipation and he will show up .... "

When was the last time I went to God, and he showed up, like that? I reread that promise: a heavenly experience, a precious eternal privilege and the rich reward for the long hours of waiting... Now I read it, and it sounded like a syrup bomb of modernist evangelical wishful thinking.

What's true? Everything I've believed about God is thrown into question. How much does he get involved? How much am I anthropomorphizing him to call him father? If he is involved, then he's choosing not to involve himself with me. If he's not involved, then why go to him and anticipate a heavenly experience? I've got such a mixed bag of experiences, I couldn't tell you one thing or another.

Where to now, St. Peter?
Show me which road I'm on ...

The wisdom literature of the Bible (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes) is filled with advice about the value of work, warnings of laziness. Life is hard and work is harder. And all is vanity and striving after wind. Of course King Solomon said that. He had hundreds of wives. If he was out servicing the ladies all day, I’m sure he felt pretty beat. But anyway, there’s lots in the Bible about the hardships of life. But there’s nothing about following your dreams.

So, this idea that God is involved with our hopes or longings, is this just our collective spiritualized narcissism talking? I’ve got a photo of a Kenyan girl on my fridge who can only go to school some of the time, because she's first got to tote water and firewood so she and her parents and six siblings can survive. How ridiculously self-centered if I think God should be involved in my artistic longings.

True, there’s the verse, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” But we can turn God our Genie in a bottle.

I don’t want to go into marriage with no money, living in my teeny apartment because we can't afford to live like normal adults our age. Like my therapist said, the onus falls more on Larry to provide. The longer he's not working, the more passive he becomes, the more his drive and hope leave him. Worse, so does his vision.

I wrote him: I don’t know what your vision or passion is, or is for, right now. I don’t know what the dragon is you need to slay. I don’t know what the dream is you want to fulfill as a writer and as a man. I know what mine is: to do my solo show, write my book, and make some money acting as I have done in the past. I’ve got a focus. It doesn’t seem like you do, and I can’t tell you what it is. I’ll support you in realizing your vision, in fulfilling your passion and slaying your dragon. But you’ve got to figure out what it is, and then you’ve got to do it.

Later as I lay on my bed, I glanced up at my Beatles movie poster on the wall. “HELP is on the way!” Before the sleep overtook me, a thought came: You need to pray for Larry. You need to pray that God will give him wisdom on what he needs to do, and the power to carry it out. You need to stand in the gap for Larry.

So I did.

Today I did what was on my plate. I tried innumerable times to call unemployment. I applied for two jobs. I took my cat to the vet.

"She's wheezing," I told them. "Can she get a shot or some antibiotics?"
The vet said he really needed to take tests, x-rays to find out what was going on. And blood work. He told me how much it would cost. $330.
"I can't afford that. What can I do for the moment?"
"Well, I don't know what I can do for her if I don't know what she has."
"What will the X-Rays tell us?"
"It might tell us if she has asthma."
"But it might not?"
"Yes, it might not."
"Then why take them?" (Other than to make money off me when I'm in a vulnerable situation with my terrified pet trembling in my arms)
"Because we need to rule things out."
"But it might not rule things out."

He stood there, waiting for me to give him an answer. I looked down at Honey. She'd let the vet stick a thermometer up her butt, his finger down her throat, squeeze her gut and her lungs. She took it all, and didn't fight him.
Another cat outside was caterwauling non-stop. Her body was shivering from fear. She silently buried her head in the crook of my arm. "Make it stop. Send help."

I told the vet to do the tests. How could I not? I'm her mom.
"Are you paying attention, God? I'm broke, but I'm taking care of my child. What are you doing? Is help REALLY on the way?"

The vet came back, her lungs were clear, so he had no answers for me.

"Well I'm not leaving here with a bill for tests and nothing to help her."
"She's wheezing, we can give her a shot and antibiotics."
"That's what I said when I walked in here. Before the tests."

He sighed. He gave my cat a shot and antibiotics. And a bill for
I cried. That's how much it costs to rent the chapel we want for the wedding.

I came home and called Larry. He'd had car trouble, a Vietnamese woman screaming at him because HE didn't understand HER, a Coke hurled at him. But he sounded different. He knew what his passion and focus were, which he wrote about in his blog today.

"Besides my writing, my greatest passion over the past three years has been my discovery and love for what's called the emerging or missional church. That is, how the church is discovering itself and reinventing itself in our postmodern time. I ache to be part of this. This is what I want more than anything else I can think of. But how? Where? What?

Last year, Christian researcher George Barna wrote a new book called Revolution, in which he talks about the throngs of people who are abandoning the traditional church to seek God and lives that matter for his kingdom, lives that traditional church cannot offer them. Barna has thrown his gauntlet in with the emergent, missional crowd. He and I are moving in the same direction. And his organization sits just up the road from me in Ventura.There it is. There's my dragon to slay. I need to find a way into Barna's mission. "

Larry had allowed other things divert his focus, but now he had his focus back, and more importantly, his vision. And a plan.

He'd been screamed at and hurled at, but he was back.

Larry was back. That's the Larry I fell in love with.


Madley said...

As always... I love hearing about you (plural) and your world :) Reminds me to look up every now and then.

Julie Cline said...

Hey Susan,

Chances are you don't remember me, but we met once when I was dating Daniel Wall. I found your blog from a link on Matt White's. I've almost commented several times on your entries. Your story with Larry is a beautiful one, and I am so happy for you.

In the middle of a struggle like yours and Larry's it's tough to believe that "God is good", and financial struggles are crippling (I am in the middle of my own right now). So I found the one place in the Bible where it actually says the words "God is good", Psalm 73:1. The whole chapter soothing stuff.

When I am struggling with situations that seem totally unfair, I tell myself that God must have something really important for me to accomplish if my enemy keeps trying to thwart my efforts. The same is true of you and Larry. Our enemy can thwart our efforts, but he cannot thwart God's plan. Apparently my new favorite word is "thwart". Great blog.

soulpadre said...

Thanks for wrestling with the modernist drivel.
I love your what you are saying and will be praying for your process, and Larry's future slaying...thank you for your words.

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