Tuesday, April 29, 2014

hampered by physique

This is what the Thomas story is a sign of: if you see the wounds, you will see Jesus. Thomas is a sign for those who have doubts, for those who get drawn down into the woundedness of things. 
There is no need to fear doubts or wounds. However far you go, Jesus is already there.
--Rev. Victor L. Austin, St. Thomas Church, NYC

If you're really, really angry at someone, the last thing you want to do is pray with them.
Naturally.
Because you just simply can't raise your pious heart up to God together while you harbor feelings of deep ill-will towards your neighbor.
You cannot seek to unite yourself to Love Himself while harboring feelings of hate.
That is such a glaring hypocrisy, that no matter how much we humans love to ignore the beam in our own eye, even we cannot overlook that one.

As the human who was currently ranking numero uno on my Frustrating Human List gathered the room of actors together and suggested demanded we pray, I could feel the pit of bitterness inside my soul revolt against the demand, even as I knew I should be responding with delight.
Prayer and theatre have always been linked together in my heart.
Half the task of an actor is to prepare for the performance. As you enter into the theatre, you begin to run through your lines, warm up your voice, walk through the show, almost unconsciously, in your mind.
There is so much ritual to complete before the show begins.
But the penultimate act you perform before heading onstage is signing yourself with the cross, taking a deep breath, and making sure your first words are on the tip of your tongue, ready to roll off into the sawdust-y atmosphere.
Before a performance, one rarely has the luxury of praying all together.
It is usually something one does alone, sitting on a flight of rickety stairs, waiting behind flimsy scrims, resting your check on the rough backside of the velvet curtain; your ears straining for the sound of your cue, your heart silently invoking heaven.
It is a rare joy to join hands with your fellow actors and offer up a prayer together. A joy that is all the more precious because of its rarity, and always welcome when it is received.

But not that day.
I did not want to pray with that man.
 I'd spent the last hour begrudgingly following the instructions he barked out and letting my self-righteous frustration build up inside of me as I counted each of his errors, and tallied up all of the grievances I'd endured. We would sometimes much rather nurse our wounds than heal them.
And I knew that if I joined hands with this human being and offered up a prayer with him, I would have to forgive him the numerous grudges I was holding against him.
I could feel my heart cling desperately to every last one of them, as we all made a circle together and join hands.
I could feel my body stiffening all over, as even my leg muscles attempted to resist the stream of grace.
I clasped the hand of my friend next to me, and closed up my eyes and my mouth in a tight seam.
The man began to pray, and I was struck by the knowledge that this man was call upon the same God I do, and that, here in that room which was festering with bitterness, the same Spirit and same grace that I called upon in Mass that morning were present there in that room.
And this man was heard by the god he called upon every bit as much as I was.
I felt about as small as an acorn at that moment.

The man said very simple words, that many generations of Christians have said for many years, and they weren't anything special, but when he said: Come, Holy Spirit, I felt something stony inside of me splinter.
I felt something crack inside me;  I think it was my pride.
Grace was about as gentle as a jackhammer that day.
I had to let go of all the bitter baggage I so desperately desired to hold onto, but those words and that prayer pried it out of my hands as firmly and as sternly as a mother pulling her toddler's fingers off of some piece of candy or a small toy they have grasped.
But it loosened up a space inside the wall of rock that lined my heart, and I found that there was a space where I could lift up my voice with his.
My anger had evaporated with the prayer.
The healing I had so staunchly resisted had bandaged up my wounds.

And see how the flesh grows back across a wound, 
with a great vehemence, 
more strong 
than the simple, untested surface before.
--Jane Hirshfield, For What Binds Us


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