Change your life.
Industries exist in response to deep yearnings - wealth, security, physical health, beauty, mental health, functioning relationships. Choose a product from one of the billion dollar enterprises and see if it delivers on the packaging.
I have no doubt that many of these responses contain some value; yet, new life seems to be both simpler and more complicated.
Caleb’s experience resonates deeply with many stories in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. A series of seemingly unremarkable events lead to a life-changing encounter. Think Moses out tending sheep, wandering over to a burning bush. Saul travels the road to Damascus, the zealous inquisitor seeking out those who warp the old ways replaced by a zealous apostle of the young faith.
Each encounter seems to come as something of a surprise, not the result of a life-plan or dedicated practice or program. Something/Someone reaches out and attaches a tractor beam to the spirit.
As a parent I am delighted and relieved, and part of me is also frustrated. Not so much with Caleb but with God. When I think of all the hours, days, months and years of trying to put him and ourselves in situations where change might occur and zippo - nix, nada, all seemingly for naught. Sure, I can talk myself down from a rant by saying that all the conversations, counselling and sincere prayers prepared the soil but how much preparation was required, how much pain was needed to fertilize the new?!
As a trained religious professional I have often been on the other side of the conversation. Many people seek out church because they crave a meaningful, spiritual experience, preferably one that rocks their world and changes them without involving much personal work. Responding to such desires, I have said that it is tough to nail God down to a schedule. “Church at 10 am Sunday morning does not guarantee that God will show up in the form and with the impact that you desire!”
That’s the official media release. And while it is true, I want special dispensation, if not for me then for those I love. God, what took you so long?
Though, now that I write about it, I am not as frustrated as grateful. Frustration is my indulgence; gratitude arises because of the opportunity that exists for Caleb and all the pieces that seem to be part of the process of transformation.
For, if the Christian tradition has any wisdom, it is that dramatic life changes, even those given by a flash of grace, need support from a community. People live their lives, but new life endures when there is a group of people with whom we can be honest with our joys and struggles, who will appear at our elbow at the ping of a text. And, new life is nurtured when people are learning and feel they not only receive but contribute, that what they bring to the table and The Way is valuable and makes a difference.
The elders in Caleb’s life have been wise enough to tag him as one to be trained and supported. The pathway seems very clearly marked. And there are many willing to pick up the phone should he need to be talked down from taking the plunge back into drugs.
And when he needs a conversation partner I am available. It is always wonderful for me to be in the presence of grace-at-work.
Photos by Ian Keefe, on Unsplash and Keith Howard