Hello, God? Yes sir, this is room 217. We need a wake up call...
I didn't say it in exactly those words. Instead, God entertained a litany of complaints: My kids drive me crazy with nagging, whining and bickering. My husband won't clean up after himself. I don't have the energy to do everything I must, much less what I want. I'm tired. I feel trapped and frustrated. When did this brick wall erect itself in my face? I don't have enough money, time, or self confidence. Everyone else has it so much better than me...
God should have quit listening, but, he didn't. He even responded to my prayer. And, true to form, not in the way I requested, expected, or desired. A bolt of lightening, with a miracle, marked "bountiful blessings for Lucy," tied to the end, didn't hit the earth. I didn't wake the next morning to find an envelope under my pillow, sent air mail, filled with positive change.
We received a phone call. The kind no one ever anticipates, that hurtles out of the blue and into reality. A close friend of many years had taken his own life, leaving his wife, children, and an unfillable void in the world.
Not knowing what to do or say, just knowing that we needed to go, we packed our bags for the long, contemplative drive to his home. Together, but alone, my husband and I grappled with our emotions, and our imaginations. I half convinced myself that the news came as part of an ill contrived plan to gather friends at the spur of the moment for a surprise party. I pensively waited for a call telling us about the case of mistaken identity. Desperately, I hoped that, at the very least, he had suffered an accident while cleaning his gun.
The funeral home and the church filled with the resounding echo of disbelief. An ocean of pain and despair threatened to swallow us in its tide. And the silent, sorrowful search for meaning, and for an answer to the question "why?," competed for attention with each person's own deeply agonizing anger.
Our souls wept.
God did not compel our friend to take his own life in order to make me start living my own. He did, however, put our lives together for a reason; for something more meaningful than a friendship characterized by generosity, for something deeper than loyalty, for an experience more intimate than secrets shared. When my mind recalls his face in snatches of insuppressible memories, so optimistic the present hardly seems true, I am convinced God granted us a history for a purpose.
Whatever forms his demons took, they cried out to him stridently, and they profoundly affected his perception. He surely wrestled them for years, keeping them hidden from his closest confidants; until he submerged into an inner dark world no one could enter with him. I cannot envision what transpired, or what those spirits whispered, while he struggled there, but he could not free himself.
And so he did.
The reply to my prayer came as an epiphany: My life corresponds to a continuous series of present moments, some blissful, some painful, in which I live and will, eventually, die. To keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep gratefully accepting the grace and gift of each moment, fully existing in it, and persist in reaching beyond my self-imposed limitations to touch the lives of others, with needs greater than my own, is all God asks of me in return for the opportunity to make the journey.