When Stuff Just Happens

Duccio - Jesus opens the eyes of a man born blind

Ever thought you’d like to rewrite the Bible? I have. Not in the weird, form-my-own-religion sense, but, you know, just make God fit…well, fit ME better.

Most of it I like. Most of the time I’m happy knowing there’s stuff I don’t understand, and I’m okay with that. There’s a safety in knowing that I don’t need to know everything, but that I know someone who does, and there’s trust like nothing else on earth when you can just throw your hands in the air (yeah yeah like you just don’t care) and say a big fat What EVER.

Here’s the bit I don’t like though. Here’s the bit I’d borrow the Tardis and go back and slap Jesus in the face for (oh really, Megan?). It’s the bit where Jesus heals the eyes of a man who was blind from birth, and someone (probably his disciples – I love those guys) asked him “Hey how come that guy was born blind? Was it something his parents did wrong or something?” and Jesus said “Nup, it was just so God could get all the credit.”

I just don’t think it’s fair.

And I don’t think the guy who was born blind would have been terribly happy with the answer either. Sometimes it’s easier to blame someone than to say “well, stuff just happens”.

But stuff just happens.

I know this, because once upon a time stuff just happened to me. Some super-wise lady once said to me “it’s not your fault, you know. Don’t take it personally. You were just at the wrong place at the wrong time”.

The thing is though, the thing with stuff happening, or with being born blind, is that you get used to it, and you accept it as normal, and part of you, and one of those things you just have to live with, and it’s okay, because even though you’re limping you’re still walking, right? And it’s all good, fine, normal even, until some bloke, some God, comes along and starts fixing things, and then you realize how broken you really were, and after the Grateful and the Shocked you end up with this strange niggling emotion of “well how come you didn’t do it sooner?”

There aren’t any answers, except I guess to slap yourself around the face a bit and telling yourself to be grateful. Because in the end, that’s all we have. And to make sure that the next time we see a man born blind, or some chick who’s limping through life because once Something Happened we put our arms around them and tell them “it’s not your fault, you know”, and remind them that we CAN’T rewrite the Bible, but that there is a One Day, and one day their miracle will come, too.

The home of the prophet

Here’s another pattern I’ve noticed: sometimes what’s happening in the physical world is an awfully good illustration of what’s happening internally.

It’s not just me, this time. I know this. The Bible has a few such noteworthy examples, and I’m so sorry I can’t provide the exact scriptural references for the dude in the Old Testament that God told to sleep with a prostitute and then cut her up (yes, I said Cut Her Up) into twelve pieces and send a piece of her to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Ouch. This is what they did before Facebook.

Or get this, from Ezekiel Chapter 4 in the Old Testament. Yes, this is the bible. No, it doesn’t get much weirder than this:

The Lord said: Ezekiel, son of man, find a brick and sketch a picture of Jerusalem on it. Then prepare to attack the brick as if it were a real city. Build a dirt mound and a ramp up to the top and surround the brick with enemy camps. On every side put large wooden poles as though you were going to break down the gate to the city. Set up an iron pan like a wall between you and the brick. All this will be a warning for the people of Israel. After that, lie down on your left side and stay there for three hundred ninety days as a sign of Israel’s punishment[a]—one day for each year of its suffering. Then turn over and lie on your right side forty more days. That will be a sign of Judah’s punishment—one day for each year of its suffering. The brick stands for Jerusalem, so attack it! Stare at it and shout angry warnings. I will tie you up, so you can’t leave until your attack has ended. Get a large bowl. Then mix together wheat, barley, beans, lentils, and millet, and make some bread. This is what you will eat for the three hundred ninety days you are lying down. 10 Eat only a small loaf of bread each day 11 and drink only two large cups of water. 12 Use dried human waste to start a fire, then bake the bread on the coals where everyone can watch you. 13 When I scatter the people of Israel among the nations, they will also have to eat food that is unclean, just as you must do.I said, “Lord God, please don’t make me do that! Never in my life have I eaten food that would make me unacceptable to you. I’ve never eaten anything that died a natural death or was killed by a wild animal or that you said was unclean.” The Lord replied, “Instead of human waste, I will let you bake your bread on a fire made from cow manure. 16 Ezekiel, the people of Jerusalem will starve. They will have so little food and water that they will be afraid and hopeless. 17 Everyone will be shocked at what is happening, and, because of their sins, they will die a slow death.” Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Sometimes we do stuff because we just feel it in our gut that it’s the right thing to do, and we don’t know why, but it is. Sometimes we step out, with little more to go on than “I just felt it was the right thing to do”, and sometimes it takes weeks, months, or even years, to fully understand the ramifications of our actions, or the good that came of them. And sometimes our guts are wrong. Sometimes we just put too much pizza in them, and the things they tell us are nothing more than “I don’t like anchovies”.

And sometimes – sometimes – the things that happen when we’re trusting our gut feel so wrong, feel like nothing-more-than-anchovies, but in reality they’re deep works that we can’t quite see the ends of just yet. And sometimes, when we’re leaning towards the pizza answer rather than the faith, sometimes then we see something, like God shows us something from the real world that shouts its confirmation at us, and suddenly we get it, like those people in the Bible got it when they saw old Ezekiel lying on his side in the dirt cooking muffins on poo.

Over the last few months my soul has been dug up and dug over and the deepest wiring exposed, and some rewiring going on. I can’t say it’s been pleasant, and sometimes it’s easy to think that it’s so hard because I’ve done something wrong. Then you see this:

My fence and my garden have done no wrong. My neighbour has done no evil thing, or hidden a body underneath her driveway. None of this, strictly speaking, needed to happen, but it is a Good Thing. It means our space is enlarging, and her bank account is being filled, and all it means is we’ve all got to keep our eyes on the goal, and the end result, not worry too much about the mess, and know that it’s worth it in the end.

Trust your gut. Step out in faith. Do something crazy. And know, when you’re in the middle of it all and it hurts like hell and there’s mud from one end of you to the other, that that funny little coincidence you’re shaking your head over just might be the confirmation of faith you need to see the journey through.

And on the subjectof mistakes…

There’s this bit in the Bible that says (basically) when we stuff up we know about it because our conscience tells us so. And if we don’t feel it in our conscience then (unless we’re loony psychopaths – okay, that’s my addition, not the Bible) we’re probably okay, and we don’t need to worry.

Easy, eh? It’s a built-in kind of self-regulator. We stuff up, we feel bad, we say sorry, we get forgiven, we move on.

Got that? Right.

Well, here’s my True Confession:

About ten years ago I made a stuff up so bad it could only be described as a Super-Dooper-Cock-Up (to be henceforth known as the SDCU). It was bad. I felt terrible, and it broke apart one of the most beautiful friendships I’ve ever known. Yes, it was that bad.

Ten years.

She forgave me, kind of, and I forgave myself, kind of. But the trouble with SDCUs, and especially for people with long memories (like me) is that I could never really let it go. How could I have been so dumb? Even worse, how could I have been so dumb and been so convinced of my rightness for so long? How could I have ignored what must have been thumping in my conscience?

I didn’t really tell anyone at the time. Mostly because the one person I would normally have told was the person I’d just done a SDCU number on, and I couldn’t be in the same room as her any more without crying. It was that bad. I knew what I’d done wrong, the memory of my stupidity wouldn’t leave me, and I vowed never to do it again.

The thing is though, we move on. Time heals, and even the biggest SDCUs get papered over in the rooms of our memories, till all they are is a lump in the fabric, a scar where a wound used to be, and that’s pretty normal. You learn to live with these things, and you learn not to put yourself in situations where you’ll do the same thing again. It’s okay. Even SDCUs are okay when you can learn from them.

A few months ago, however, I was praying and God dropped this thought in my spirit, this thing that I just had to do, and, like most times when God tells people to do something, it freaked me out completely, and the only thing I could think was “But God…I can’t.”

Come on God, seriously. Don’t you remember about the SDCU?

And that’s when I realized.

It wasn’t my conscience condemning me at all. It wasn’t God. It was me.

There absolutely WAS a Super-Dooper Cock-Up: but it wasn’t the dumb thing I did to my friend. That was forgivable, and should have been moved on from years ago. No. The real SDCU was not talking about it to anyone, and allowing the guilt to stop me from reaching out to anyone for ten years. For that I’m truly sorry.

That’s why I’ve made my July 2012 resolution: I’m going to keep talking about how I’m feeling, and I’m going to keep blogging. Stuff-ups happen. All the time. We’re ridiculously human. But it’s only when we start admitting our faults to others and listening to our consciences rather than our emotions that we can really stop the cycle of the SDCU. What do you think? It’s scary, but do you care to join me in this big endeavour?