This morning at the gym the music system played a song that I’ve not heard in years, but at one time long ago was a memorable and impactful part of difficult very period. The song was “Babe” by Styx. Among other things today it has led me to think again of the Emmaus Story and the different ways we encounter God in our daily lives. Sometimes we are aware of God being God in us, sometimes not. I think it’s going to be a fairly introspective couple of days.
The song was bringing back and stirring up some powerful memories of my time at a parish right after I got out of the Army the first time, some 45 years ago. Some memories were good, most not so much. An anger filled this very messed up part of my life, later diagnosed as PTSD related to some specific incidents that happened while I was on active duty. Not all of them were from Vietnam. I was doing some very dumb and potentially dangerous things to cope with whatever the heck it was I didn’t know at the time. Two words could describe my life attitude back then: angry and afraid. Both are terrible burdens to carry and powerfully affect how we live and relate to other people. We project our anger and fear onto others, and so they very much govern our life. We get pretty much messed up as I did and was.
When God is being God in our life, it’s not only though humans. I would not have survived without Donny, a wonderful Labrador Retriever, who was with me when some of the unpleasantries took place, and good people — some adults, many “kids”. I think if I had it to do all over again, Donny and I would have taken some time away on our own before I would have gone to a parish, if ever I would have done that again. Not sure I would have. Maybe I would have bought a motorcycle again, which I’d long wanted to do after I’d had so much fun with the one I had at Ft Benning. One thing Donny and I did do, both on active duty and afterwards, was make some sort of a daily hour or so of prayer in whatever country or situation we found ourselves in. I’ve heard dogs don’t go to heaven. Wherever I go after my next PCS, I want to be wherever Donny is. That was a rock of stability for me — stability being rather relative at times. As we used to say in a land long ago and far away, “don’t mean nothin”.
I think what I’m trying to say is, that whatever is going on in our life at any time, we are not alone. God is with us, and seems continually to be bringing people into our life — people who have the gifts we need, or maybe who need the gifts we have, whether or not we know we have them. Over the years I’ve become more open to God and life in general since then thanks to Donny and the other good folks who have walked together with me at different times. Some were good and enjoyable, some were not, but looking back it is fairly clear they were all of and from God being God. Sometimes people are God being God for us, sometimes we are God being God for others. It’s all God being God in our life and everywhere..
In Emmaus Story the disciples were disappointed because things didn’t go as they wished, and Jesus had disappointed them. Are we keeping God out of our life because we don’t like some people for whatever reason? Welcoming people does not necessarily mean agreeing with them, just prayerfully accepting them and asking God for wisdom in how to accept them.
While the idea seems to be disturbing to some, God really loves and cares for us as we are. God is not angry and looking for a chance to punish us. We are not a fallen race or a race of sinners. We, and each of us, are a growing and developing people and race. We are an important, and even necessary part of the wonderful cosmos God is still creating. None of us is an accident. As the Story shows, we, every one of us, encounter and recognize God as we journey through our whole life. Life is not divided into good and bad, spiritual and worldly, etc. Life is one.
When God is an experience for us, we realize everything is of God, both the good and not so good. God is in us as we deal with tragedy. I am more convinced that we have no idea of our own goodness or importance to God, so we are not able to help others see their goodness. We judge too much based on our own comfort and convenience, and overlook our ever-present God who is the Presence that keeps us, and the cosmos, in existence. We come to know this Presence is good, and this frees up on so many ways. No matter what burdens we carry, we do not carry them alone. Pope Francis urges us not to judge and condemn, but to accompany each other in faith and let others accompany us. In a sense we’re helping God be God.
I think I’ve learned a bit since my time with Styx, at least I hope so. I still miss Donny, still have mixed memories of that time. But looking back I see god was walking, slogging, with me, and for this I am profoundly grateful. All this may be gobbledygook for some, but for me it is life. Just sayin . . .