Unsure of how to proceed, the fabric of my inner experience the tattered banner of yet another failed self-concept, snapping and flapping in the rushing wind, I was washing dishes. One by one. Soak, scrub, wash, rinse, dry. Repeat. There was the hope that performing this activity manually, with ritual focus, would result in my being permeated by a bygone purity, one that would cool my smoldering core. The dishwasher was a pace or two away, beneath the counter top, silent. The room was dark, but for the single bulb above the sink. But for my own movements, the room was silent.
I wasn’t just making work: the simplest form of prayer is attentiveness, even if the content is nothing but the raw and swirling feeling of the pain of Love’s absence. The entire experience was surreal. Innocence can never be the outcome of force, and I knew it, but neither could I bring myself to actually grind to a halt. The shredded flag inside of me was on the verge of tearing free from its pole and being whipped off the plateau, whisked away like a tiny stick caught in a great river- utterly and quickly gone. I would be left alone, then, on that outcropping of rock, sitting next to the bare flagpole with only a memory, defeated. I was postponing the moment with warm water, a bit of soap, and some simple movements.
I was symptomatic again- acutely aware that somehow I had once again elected to trod this path of separation. Exactly where the turn had occurred, I couldn’t say. For the moment, I was simply pinned in its grip. I knew it did not have to be this way, and that somehow the choice had been mine and mine alone, but in the moment this understanding only seemed to compound the suffering. The things I had once desired to do, images of accomplishment and freedom, felt empty and heavy. And meaningless. Doing nothing felt like an admission of personal irrelevance. Fighting the condition on my own was futile and ineffectual and I tried to invite Love to come close, with the best (albeit feeble) mental squawking I could muster, but the isolated feeling I had and the feeling of Love do not cohabitate. So, I churned away, spiraling through unpleasant corridors.
Sometimes the boldest thing you can do is to be present without contesting yourself.
I was down to the pots and pans, and the water was cooling. I went to work on them, one at a time, chipping away at hardened residues. I tried to focus only on my movements, to see past the pain, to avoid fighting with it, to avoid empowering it, to know that no harm is really being done when a cloud makes a brief transit of the sun, but I had nothing to fill the space with, and so I circled back to the starting point of nagging discontent, and tried again. My pain and I, we circled one another like two fighters, but all I really wanted was relief.
I scrubbed the remaining pots clean and dried them. I rinsed my hands one last time after draining the water from the sink. I flicked off the light and went to sit on the back porch, alone, in the darkness, to sit with these feelings and finally let them go. I turned to the hallway and nearly bumped into Him.
Jesus said nothing. He just put His arms around me, happy to be reunited. My feelings loosened, wobbled, and then poured out of me, and I cried tears of relief, so happy to have passed through another night.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered into His ear. “I’ve been looking for you for days, but I couldn’t find you.”
He told me He knew, and that He had always been there beside me, but He told me the parts of us that suffer are the parts that keep us isolated, and that they cannot see Him. Our suffering divides us, each from each. When we cease to identify with it, then He can come. Not only He, but Everyone.
This embrace awaits us all when we relinquish our well-intentioned need to fix things of our own accord. The only feeling left was a happy, but foolish one: the letting go sometimes comes with the flooding recognition that this need not have been… I realized I really had, at some level, sought to be separate, to be the one responsible for coming up with something so great as Love itself. It can be difficult to know you have chosen against all of Creation.
I realized my seriousness and my efforts had only postponed this reunion, and that surrender had let Love wash over me. I’m dreaming now, of a life without concepts, with dreams big enough for everyone. I’m letting the wind take the banners of my suffering, and carry them away…