Day 56 – SELF-SUFFICIENCY (March 26)
People need the dignity of work and the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. Economic self-sufficiency is a requirement for a nonviolent world. Today, create a job for someone or help someone to find employment (for example, help them with a resume or application, help them make phone calls, dress appropriately, or practice interviewing).
I’ve got nothing. Maybe I could help a friend with her computer skills, if she wants.
Otherwise, well, I’m typing in advance, knowing that the morning is going to be hectic and busy. And I’m just not in a good space. The responsibility challenge didn’t go so well for me. It turned out to be like praying for patience. I got my opportunity to practice. And I failed. Hard. I threw the shit right back.
And I’m still having a hard time processing my hurt and resulting anger from the interaction. It began with accusations on his part and deteriorated from there. I’m ashamed to say it took me hours to finally just say STOP.
I am, of course, powerless over other people. I can do nothing to change the part I didn’t play. I doubt I’ll ever get an apology. And I’m really tired of getting to always be the strong side and offer the first “I’m sorry.” It dawns on me that this may be why I am the responsible party. I’ve never felt drawn to leadership. I’ve occasionally stepped up when needed. I prefer interactions based on equality. More accurately, equality and balance are needs rooted in my soul. But perhaps I have to be the leader in this. Sigh. Probably saner to step up myself than keep waiting for him to do it. I can’t remember which Rob Bell book I read where he pointed out that “the stronger person always apologizes first” and I realized that was me. I never wanted to be the stronger half in any relationship. But the truth is that I usually have been.
I have accomplished some difficult things and generally can rise to any challenge. I’ve survived and grown in situations where many people don’t live. Every single time it’s been by focusing on God. I really do believe, as insane as it may sound, that God will not give me more than I can handle, that if I let Him he will make me as strong as I need to be for whatever life my bring may way. It has worked when my life was on the line. It has worked when my child’s life was on the line. It hasn’t been fun but it has been rewarding and worth it. It may be a simple, childish faith but it has kept me strong and allowed me to grow from and through crisis and trauma. And the result is that my biggest weaknesses are also great strengths. I am strong enough to admit that I fucked up and say I am sorry. Paradoxically this comes from being incredibly weak and knowing just how fallible and mistake prone I am has a human being.
Perhaps what I’m getting to, and it’s late and I’m tired and my brain is getting slow, is that self-sufficiency is a terrible idea. I get the thinking behind the challenge, we all need the dignity of being able to contribute and the security of having our needs met, but I think God-sufficiency and inter-dependence among people is much saner. We are spiritual, communal animals. We need to both give and accept help. “Together we can accomplish what we cannot do alone.”
Which puts me back at responsibility and human interactions. I can’t have any kind or a relationship with anyone alone. And I can’t be solely responsible for any interaction which requires two (or more!). I ran across some great wisdom the other day. I’ve been reading The Cost of Discipleship. It’s a hard book and taking me a long time to absorb. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote of Christ as the Mediator:
The path, too, to the “God given reality” of my fellow-man or woman with whom I have to live leads through Christ, or it is a blind alley. We are separated from one another by an unbridgeable gulf of otherness and strangeness which resists all our attempts to overcome it by means of natural association or emotional or spiritual union. There is no way from one person to another. However loving and sympathetic we try to be, however sound our psychology, however frank and open our behavior, we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even between soul and soul. Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbors through him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbors, and corporate prayer, offered in the name of Christ, the purest form of fellowship.
I’ll admit I sometimes find it silly to try to learn about God in books, like He could ever be studied with any accuracy! It can feel like trying to catch a tiger with a butterfly net and I get frustrated and want to throw the books down and go out and live and do and get dirty. Yet I also greatly enjoy really challenging books like this that force fossilized parts of my brain to turn. And this appears to be one of the most accurate and piercing descriptions of human relationships I have ever seen. I’ve tried love and sympathy. I’ve sampled sound psychology and tasted frank and open. They haven’t worked.
I am long accustomed to being alone with my prayers. I’m good with the ritual group prayers in church and 12-step meetings. But I think I need to learn what it means to just stop and pray with my friends. I feel very much to be the blind leading the blind. I don’t know what this looks like or how to do it. And I’m scared, there is something very vulnerable in this. It is my soul on the line. There is both everything to lose and everything to gain. And the only way forward is through. It is obvious that attempting direct relationships on my own has always failed in one way or another. It is time for an entirely new path. the purest form of fellowship.