The younger me, realizing I was trying to go it alone, finally takes God up on his offer to talk. Insights I needed to have, I got.
As I was trying to figure out what to write about today, I came across a piece that I wrote 14 years ago. The piece describes a hypothetical conversation between 44-year-old, spiritually empty and confused me, and God.
This was the beginning of the awakening that God gave me, a gentle nudge on a summer day, reminding me of my nearly nonexistent relationship with Him and that He was still available if I wanted to talk.
I showed the article (included below) to a few people at the time. This included both of my parents, who were probably relieved that I had not joined some heavy metal death cult. Others were surprised that the breadth of my imagination was not limited to putting mustard on french fries.
Having this experience didn't quite wake me up. I hit the snooze a few times before finally getting out of bed. Realizing that I was snoozing too much, the Lord, applied a series of increasingly nasty shots to finally get me moving.
When God nudged me that day and essentially said, 'Remember me?' he got my attention. So I took Him up on His offer to chat...
Call Him, He's Home
Originally published Wednesday, July 20, 2005
So again I’m on vacation this week, and as is my custom, I do most of my years thinking while I’m not needed to do much beyond grilling some sausages and picking up my family from the beach if I should hear thunder and am not napping in the hammock. It occurs to me that I have not been a good person lately, on a number of dimensions. I’ve been an impatient father, an indifferent husband, an inattentive son, an unmotivated employee, an insensitive boss, a careless friend.
I’m pretty down on myself and I think maybe it’s because I haven’t been giving God His due in my life. I have a lot of reasons, but they aren’t God’s fault, they’re mine and other humans. No, they’re really just mine. Like a guilty child, I felt the need to explain, so I called God up. This was the image that I always had growing up – that making the sign of the Cross was tantamount to dialing God’s house and talking to him. I still have that image. Now it would be really creative to give God a voice here – tell you he sounds like James Earl Jones or Pavarotti or even Sally Kellerman. I’m not doing that because it’s not true. I don’t hear voices, God’s or anyone else’s, in my head. The reason I know He hears is that I ask the questions and the answers come. Sometimes it’s just the quiet I need to think clearly. Other times stuff I never thought of jumps into my mind. That’s when I really know He’s talking. Nothing you can make a movie out of, but God doesn’t work like that. So I call Him up and, of course, He was home...
I ask Him how He’s doing and then caught myself.
“Duh, sorry about that. Of course, You’re great. Haha...” Silence = "Okay stranger, get to the point." (That’s Him talking again.) Most of my adult prayers begin like this:
“I know I haven’t been very attentive to You lately, but I need Your help. I’m kind of lost.” Silence = "Go on." I imagine He’s not too happy, but He doesn’t hang up on me. Still, I’m hesitant. I start where my upbringing and CCD teachers would suggest I start.
“I haven’t been attending Mass at all.” Silence = "No kidding." Suddenly, I feel the need to make an excuse. “Of course You know that. It’s just that I’m mad about the molestation thing.” This referred to the scandal that had ruptured the diocese of Boston. Priests had been sexually abusing kids for decades. And the hierarchy had covered it up. Silence = "Me too." Having reached an agreement with the creator of everything and everyone made me bold, so I dared to say this:
“And it got me to thinking that the Mass, you know, isn’t really meeting my needs.” Silence = "Your...needs?" “Yeah, you know, spiritual renewal, inspiration, motivation to be good. All that stuff.”
(I thought this was what He wanted to hear. It was not.) Silence = "I know your needs. So on top of good health, a beautiful family, a safe, peaceful place to live, a magnificent Basset Hound and time to sit on the Cape and do nothing for a week, you still want to talk about your unmet needs? Do I have that right?" He sounded aggravated. That is, the silence sounded aggravated. Getting a little nervous, even though I am pretty sure He loves me. I ventured, “When you put it like that, it sounds bad…” Silence = "Bad? Bad! Try ungrateful. Even with all you have, that I have given you, you still want to go to Mass and be ‘motivated to be good. Are you nuts? Really, because I didn’t think you were. But maybe you are. And I forgot." I didn't address the sarcasm at the end. In truth, I may have added that myself.
Instead, I said, “You’re right, of course.
Silence = "Of course."
“But I want to be more. I want to use the talent you gave me to help others, to influence those around me to do the same, to make the world better, as Jesus said and did.” Silence = "Okay. You are finally at the starting point.
Why did you start with the Mass and your needs? Blah, blah, blah...
I think he might have chuckled, but I am not sure.
Your needs, the real needs, are determined and supplied by Me. They have nothing to do with cars or homes or other material stuff.
I give you 3 things you need: Love, talent, and people. What you make of those things is up to you." “That makes sense. Okay, how can I make the most of these things You’ve given me?” Silence = You can start with some basics:
Be an example to your wife and kids first, then everyone else you come in contact with.
Keep your promises.
Admit your mistakes.
Apologize when you need to and occasionally when you don’t.
Never use pride as an excuse to avoid doing what you know is right.
(I love lists!)
“That makes it pretty easy to understand. Thanks.” Silence = Not so easy to implement though. You need to think about how you’re going to implement these ideas in your daily life. What are you going to do first? “Well, I should probably start going to Mass again. It seems like a logical first step.” Silence = "And do what? Sit there, slack-jawed and sweating for an hour a week?
Remember the experience only if the priest happens to say something clever? Then go home satisfied that you’re a better person than the guy who stayed in bed reading the paper on Sunday morning?" I didn’t really want to go to Mass, but His reading of my thoughts was weird, even though I should have expected it. It was so accurate.
“Okay, what do you suggest?” Silence = Take action!
You said you’re an impatient parent. Why not really concentrate on being more patient?
You’re an indifferent husband? Why not try to be more loving?
You’re an inattentive son? Call your parents. Go see them and bring your dog.
You’re an unmotivated employee? Motivate yourself! You shouldn’t need others to get you to do your best.
You’re an insensitive boss? Have you ever needed sensitivity from someone and not gotten it? Remember that the next time someone needs a break or another chance and make the right choice.
“This is great!' I said, "I know what to do! I probably always knew, but now it’s clear. Thanks. That helps me a lot.” I was kind of signing off... Silence = Was that all? Was I finished? Or was there more? Did you forget that you were a careless friend? Or were you trying to duck that one? Totally honest. Who would I kid anyway?
“Ducking.” Silence = Why? No excuses. “I don’t have the energy or interest. Also, there is a friend who I didn’t treat very well, and they are probably mad. Rightly so. I was mad too, and I don’t feel like facing it. Out of my life, clean, simple. No explanations owed or offered.” Silence = Wow. Do you think that makes you tough? Do you think I’m impressed? “No.” Silence = You are correct. I am unimpressed. And you know what you should do. So, tell me. “Contact and apologize. Explain, but mostly apologize.” Silence = You’re on the right track. I’m glad you called. I missed you.
You’re only human.
You’re not perfect.
You’ll make mistakes.
Do your best.
I’m proud of you.
I love you.
Some people never ask the questions you asked. Fewer do what I suggest. I hope you are different. “I hope so too. I’ll do my best.” Silence = "That’s all I ask."
Thank you for reading. God bless you!