Lion of the Morning

Some mornings I wake up with a persistent image in my mind.  Sometimes I know why, but more often than not I really do not have a clear understanding of what brings a picture to the forefront of consciousness so soon after sleep.

Today before the sun rose I was rubbing my eyes and trying to see the coffee pot, but all I could see was the face of a lion.

It was a male lion with a scarred face.  It was not at all frightening but it was awe-inspiring.  The photo posted here is the closest thing I could find to what I saw.  My lion’s eyes were less distant and his face was wider.

I spent some time talking with a good friend yesterday about our personal spiritual beliefs, but mostly we talked about how challenging it is to have constructive conversation with our friends and associates about issues of faith and science.  My friend and I have what seem to be very different beliefs about some things, but honestly at the end of the day I still don’t think we are that far apart in what matters.

Case in point from our conversation:

Me:  I feel kind of bad about this, but I stand up all the time and say I believe in the virgin birth and I don’t really.

Friend: You don’t believe in miracles?

Me: I do.  Just not that one.

Friend:  Really.  Why not?

Me: I guess because everyone is so hung up on sex and it would get in the way of the story if there were a guy.  Who’s the guy?  Do we like that guy?  Was he her husband?  As a woman, I see and live a lot of social judgments that get in the way of what is really important.  I think the story of who Jesus was is told with a lot of myth, but that doesn’t make it untrue.  Myth for me actually tells more truth than science sometimes.

Friend:  I believe in Adam and Eve.

Me: You do?  Why?

Friend:  I just do.  I think there is a line of demarcation when God put his spirit into human beings and we became different creatures because of it.

I avoided any talk of apples and snakes.  But I’m kind of down with his point even though I would never say it the way he did exactly.  We are going to keep talking.

And I’m going to keep thinking about my lion.

Image credit: ODP

Fear of Losing Connection

Several years ago, a friend shared the experience of attending a one-woman show in which the performer created various expressions of her “self.”  The performer was known for her comedic edge, and the show did not disappoint when it came to laughs.

The performer appeared as a housewife, a burlesque dancer, a mother, a mother-in-law, a professional executive type, a teacher, a child, and on and on.  While there were serious elements to each self, each one also generated many laughs; those laughs seemed to come from each member of the audience having some moment of recognition of the character on stage.  It was fun to understand — via art — that we all have diverse elements of our “selves” and yet we are each a whole person because of those elements.

It was fun until the last incarnation appeared.

The last version of the “self” the woman portrayed was homeless.  She was what we called growing up (shamefully, I now realize) a “bag lady.”  She sat on stage in dirty and ragged clothing, surrounded essentially by bags of garbage, muttering to herself and occasionally trying to catch the eye of the imaginary people on stage with her.

The other selves had been alone on stage as well, but there was always a sense with those that the character existed to others.  This character, though also alone, presented the powerful experience of living in an existential vortex into which no one else could — or more accurately wanted to — reach.

It was as if no one in the theater could even breathe.  The show closed in silence.

I remember this story, because it demonstrates a common and rarely spoken or even internally acknowledged fear.  I wrote about it at the end of last year when a homeless man died in my community and his body was not discovered for days (click here for that post).  I think this fear goes beyond being hungry, or homeless, or struggling to find clean clothes or employment.

This fear is about losing something many of us take for granted: A connection to other people that serves as a safety net upon which we all rely.

Some people can articulate that they don’t like “being alone” and that it is even a fear-inducing state for them.  Me?  I love being alone.  Being alone is really the only time I feel inner peace.  My world is quiet and calm.  My energy is high.  Life is free of conflict and it’s easier to hear the voice of God as I understand it.

But being alone is not the same thing as being disconnected.  Disconnection is one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had, and I think I may have to mark it as a major fear in my heart.  I have never been fully disconnected from society or everyone I know, but I’ve had my toe in the water of what it’s like to start to disappear, and it’s terror-inducing.

The experience I’ll share was in a medical environment.  I’ve had others, but this is a good example.  It was also the first.

During a miscarriage many years ago, I was convinced my pregnancy could be saved with proper medical intervention.  It became clear to me very quickly that I was not a unique individual, nor was my fetus, in the OB-GYN practice where I was seen.  I was young enough that the docs weren’t worried that I could get pregnant again and have a successful outcome.  They had seen pregnancies like mine collapse before, and had a protocol for letting them go.  I felt like a Who from Horton Hears a Who……….. “We are here!  We are here!  We are here!”  But the faces around me said we don’t really care that you think you’re here; we don’t think you are.

Call us in a few weeks.  Here’s your paper work.  Next…..

With time I accepted what happened and why, but I will never forget that feeling.  It was the first time in my life that I remember not being able to convince someone I was special, that they should listen to me, that if we just worked together we could figure this thing out. It was an important lesson, humbling, and also a glimpse into something we all have to learn how to manage eventually.

It leads me back to the concept that a spiritual life and a relationship with God as we understand him/her to be is so important.  Sooner or later we look around and other people are not there for us as we’ve always thought they would be.  Doctors are not interested in pursuing treatment.  Spouses are not interested in continuing marriages.  Children grow up and move away.  The banker won’t give us a loan, the teacher won’t let us retake the test, there’s no room at the inn.

One of my biggest genuine fears is becoming someone no one is interested in being involved with or helping in any way.  It’ll just be me and God.

I have to run.  I’ve got some relationship building to do.

Images credits: Letting Go – Recovery in the Sunlight, Teik It Easy