Yesterday’s devotional mentioned the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It reminded me of a time during my darkest days of bipolar despair when I had to force myself to even consider making an effort; I managed to get myself out of the house and walk. It was more like plodding but I recited the Jesus Prayer under my breath like a mantra. I remember inhaling “Lord Jesus Christ” exhaling “Son of God” inhaling “have mercy on me” exhaling “a sinner.”
This was during the time when family came to visit; the rabbits ran loose in the house unfed and fending for themselves; there was no clear floor space; I could barely get myself to work….or was I still working? I don’t remember those years clearly but I do remember quite clearly my sister’s exclamation, “You’re out of control!” I also remember my un-vocalized reply, “no shit; you think?” I had no one helping me. I was on the wrong medication, my therapist was bored with me and of no help, and I was in such deep despair, I had no clue what to do, and no desire to do anything. Getting my shoes on to walk was huge. Reciting the prayer was like small drops of cool water to a parched throat.
This walking prayer was one of several efforts of mine through those years to reconnect with God and to find divine help. Thinking about this, I became aware of an interesting bit of trivia: 40 years had passed between my giving in to an adulterous affair in November of 1976, (I was tired of being good) to a year ago when I consented to my spiritual growth “no matter the cost.” 40 years had passed…almost to the day. Those 40 years were hard, and I believe all of it (hard times and efforts to reconnect) have played into my being where I am now…but during those years, I felt completely abandoned if not rejected by God.
Truly, I spent 40 years in darkness, but I kept trying. There were times I wanted to give up and take the short cut home, but I never gave myself over to retaliating or being a mean or spiteful person. I continued to always try to do the right thing whether or not it was being rewarded or my despair relieved.
It took 40 years, but I finally figured out the benefits of completely giving up everything…everything from possessions, resentments, anger, agendas, aspirations, reputations, pride, vanity, even feeling good about my writing and my efforts to help others.
Then I found out that there is a word for that: Kenosis. It is a Greek word describing the process of giving up the stuff of one’s life…everything that a person identifies with or clings to. Jesus talked about this process all the time. In fact, his consenting to die on the cross was the ultimate giving up. I eventually saw that to follow Jesus means to do the same…to let go of all of it to remove all distractions and shades from having clear awareness of God. And it works.
When I was a teenager, I prayed fervently for the Wisdom so highly prized in Scripture and for a mastery of words with which to help and heal others. I have wanted the satisfaction of being a healer. Well, I am a healer now…and more; I am all of it. I am God…at least that is what remains when I get rid of all of my attachments…including my attachment to being a healer. I may not be able to fully and completely enter the Kingdom of Heaven because of my transgressions 40 years ago, but like Moses, God has repeatedly “used me as a channel of divine grace, guidance and power.”
(I have borrowed the image and wisdom from beloved friend, Fr Austin Rios: The Promised Land