Saturday, 19 September 2020
Heaven is laughing
Fred has done a bunk.
Sometimes, life is so blinking difficult. We feel so alone, and God, the Divine, Spirit or whoever you pray to (the late and much loved Rabbi Lionel Blue named his God "Fred") is nowhere in sight. God has done a bunk, has better things to do, doesn't like you anyway, and you have ended up alone and lost. What did you expect? You are you, and as such, you are rubbish.
When we are down, it is hard to ask for help. The further we slide into sadness, difficulty, or madness (perhaps), the harder it is to connect with other people. Especially other people who seem to be doing just fine. Everything we do not like about ourselves gets magnified until we think that is all other people can see. In all our encounters we look for confirmation of our worthlessness, and we find it. We find that confirmation, and because we are sliding downwards and feel this low, we absolutely believe that the confirmation is right.
It is said that love is the answer, that we must all love each other. They say that the real test is to love the unloveable, but when we are really down, we feel we are the unloveable. What they don't say is that the unloveable find it almost impossible to accept love anyway. When life is so blinking hard and everything is so dreadful, accepting love makes us feel deeply vulnerable and we reject it, sometimes with knobs on. It makes us angry. It makes us worse because, I suppose, it highlights the feelings of loss and lack we have. And, often, we don't trust it. "What are you up to?" We think. "What's in it for you?" and I suppose, we act from a place that says, "I am so bad that it's only a matter of time before you see that. I had better reject you now so that I do not have to face even more pain of rejection later."
What is love anyway? Is it the romantic thing that is sold to us as the answer and the goal of our lives? Is it the perfect bonding of parents for their children? Is it loyal and undying acts of selflessness for a friend? Is self love about having more chocolate and having more bubble baths? In times of distress the very idea of love takes on a two dimensional aspect, as if it is at least a fraud, and at most, completely out of our league. So it can get lost. These notions of romantic love, family love, friendship love seem oversimplified and impossible, nothing we can count on and who would love us anyway? Whatever that means. Love of course is a more beautiful thing than that. It is both more magnificent and more subtle than we can imagine, it is also more simple and much more accepting. But when we are feeling this bad, we absolutely do not love ourselves and from our feelings of worthlessness and isolation comes a rejection of love from others.
So God, the Divine, Spirit, Fred does not listen to us nor answer our prayers. We may keep praying, but we expect nothing. So we see nothing. We may turn our back on all that stuff, we may simply stop trying. We may have thought it all guff to begin with and are perversely satisfied that we were right - there was no magic god-thing anyway. It is down to us. And look where we are - we could do with a bit of a divine hand to help us - but there isn't one, never was one, and it is time to accept we are on our own. Just us. Just you. Get used to it.
I was in a frighteningly dark place many years ago. I was a single mother of three young children, vastly overweight and without work, anxious and full of self disgust. I had dismissed the god-idea because there was no evidence it existed in my life. If there was one, a god thing, I would not be feeling this lonely and hopeless. The god thing would have looked after me and stopped all this awfulness. It was hard to get through each day, to keep my children going, to cope. I felt as if I were wading through thick darkness and that the darkness was closing over my head. And then, one afternoon I picked up a book and noticed a small piece of paper drop to the floor. Picking up the paper, I read the following
Let nothing disturb thee,
nothing affright thee
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth
In nothing is wanting;
God alone sufficeth.
I read "Let nothing disturb thee", and "nothing affright thee" and felt a deep moment of recognition. Something happened in my chest. I was afraid and disturbed. I felt an opening in the darkness and I thought - perhaps, just perhaps, this was written just for me. I couldn't believe these words, they shouted themselves into my mind, and made me stop. I understood the rest of the prayer, but kept locking onto the not letting myself be disturbed or affrighted. It was a moment of absolute revelation, but, only a teeny tiny one. I did not have choirs of angels and beams of light. I had the touch of a loving divine finger on my forehead which enabled me to let those words in. Over the next few days I read, "All things are passing", and felt the same deep recognition. All things are passing, and this pain will pass. It will pass! Then, I read and understood, "Patient endurance attaineth to all things", and thought, Oh! If all things are passing, and I do not need to be so frightened and disturbed, I can patiently endure this and it will pass. For some reason, I understood that I could endure this, and I could do something about it. I was not alone and I did not have to stay still in this darkness. I could move.
"God never changeth" spoke to me next. I didn't analyse it, nor have any deep thoughts about it, but I know I was comforted by the not changing. Over the next few years, I kept this prayer with me, reading it when I was more than usually troubled, to see what line would speak to me. I began to have faith that I would read whatever I needed to know for that moment from the prayer on this scrap of paper. It took a long while too, to find out that the prayer was from Teresa of Avila, a Spanish nun and mystic in the mid fifteen hundreds. It took a long while because I wasn't very interested in who wrote it or where it came from, I just wanted to read the words.
Though I would say that finding this prayer changed my life, it was not a change that anyone else could see. It didn't change my life so that suddenly I had answers and was happy. It was simply one of the moments in which my life moved and shifted, and I had a small personal miracle shown to me. I had, I still have, many moments like this and I would suggest that you do too. The thing is, we often do not see them and if we do see them, we tend to dismiss them. This moment of grace when I found the prayer gave me insight that I was not alone, that things could be different, and that I would have to make this change happen. How I made changes was up to me but at least now, I understood that I could at least try.
Heaven is laughing.
There is an image that comes to me sometimes when I feel either that prayer does not work, or that I am cross because all I want (to love and be loved) is not blinking working. I hate everyone and no one likes me. It's all a mess. Then, I get an image of what it is like in the place I will call heaven, somewhere in another spiritual dimension probably way up in the sky, high above the clouds. That is where I was told heaven was when I was a child, and I still find myself going to that image. So up in this heaven I see a host of figures, all made of light and all in human form, moving together in a constant flow laughing out loud. The sound of their laughter is glorious and fills the whole of heaven, joyful and spontaneous as if they had all just heard the best joke ever. The figures in heaven have faces with deep laughter lines as I watch them laugh with joyful abandon. Why are you all laughing? I ask. (Sometimes petulantly). The answer I get is that they are laughing with pure love and delight for me. I delight them and whatever is happening down here in my life, it does not change their laughter one bit. What if I am deeply sad and everything is collapsing around me? I ask. They answer - we laugh because we know you will be OK. There is more to your life than your sorrow and hardship. We see this and though we know you do not see it at the moment, it does not matter to us because we cannot get over how precious you are to us. We are laughing more than ever when you are down, because of our absolute love for you, for all of you, and joy in all your existence, and maybe, one day, the sound of our laughter will reach you in some way, and you will know we are filled with this unending joy in your - and you reading this - your existence. Oh, they say as the light shifts and changes around them, we love you so much. You make us laugh with joy!
And then I think, maybe Fred, or God, or whoever or whatever we call it, did not do a bunk. Life down here can be hard, is hard, but it is not that our god-idea or god figure scarpered when the going got tough for us, it's just that we needed to experience this darkness in our lives - but this darkness is not all. When we do feel the finger of god on our forehead, and hear the faint sound of heaven laughing just for us because we are so uniquely and gloriously precious, the power of this experience will mean more to us than anything we can imagine. It will give us courage to go on because, if the whole of heaven is laughing with utter delight in us, why not?
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