Monday Morning Memo for November 21, 2005
By Roy H. Williams
Finances. Relationships. Health… the tall monsters we face in life’s dark ocean when we awaken underwater, alone in the night, not knowing what to do.
Ever been there?
People respond to deep crisis in different ways. There are:
1. Handwringers who talk about the problem to anyone who will listen. “You just won’t believe what I’m going through.”
2. Dark worriers who internalize the problem, then grow despondent and depressed. “Life sucks and then you die.”
3. Positive thinkers who prop themselves up with platitudes: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” “God helps those who help themselves.” “It’s not the size of dog in the fight that counts, it’s the size of fight in the dog,” etc.
4. Analytical planners who gather the data, calculate the odds, do whatever makes the most sense, then resign themselves to the eventual outcome. “I’ve done all that I can do.”
5. People who abandon steps 1 through 4 and run to God like little girls. “Daddy! Daddy! Save me!”
Does it surprise you that I’ve always been part of the run-to-God crowd?
I’m not trying to be religious here. I’m trying to be helpful.
Many of you will find today’s memo completely irrelevant. I realize that. But with 31,000 readers, I’ve got to believe that at least a few hundred feel they are suffocating in darkness. (If you’re in the sunshine-and-song, problem-free majority, you’re free to quit reading right now if you like:)
It seems to me that we’re reluctant to run to God for different reasons:
1. Doubt. “God doesn’t exist and I’ll not demean myself by caving in to that Myth after a lifetime of self-sufficiency.”
2. Pride. “I ought to be able to handle this on my own.”
3. Religiosity. “God is sovereign. If I suffer, it is because He has willed it.”
4. Shame. “I haven’t earned the right to ask God for anything.”
Doubt has never been a problem for me. Maybe someday I’ll tell you why.
Pride is one of my less endearing traits. Frankly, I’m as territorial an alpha-male as any redneck bastard that ever drank Budweiser. But I have no pride when I ponder God. I’m arrogant. But I’m not stupid.
Religiosity. I agree with Arthur C. Clarke, who said, “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have both free will and a benevolent higher power who protects you from yourself.” In other words, I believe a once-sovereign God gave up absolute control of our circumstances on the day he gave us free will and put us in charge of this world. “Religiosity” is also what Tom, a friend of Anne Lamott, was talking about when he said, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
Shame. Like you, I’ve never earned the right to run to God like a little girl crying “Daddy, Daddy, Save me.” Certainly not. Instead, I take the position, “Jesus, let’s not make this about how good I am. Let’s make this about how good you are.”
Call me crazy. Call me delusional. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I believe in a God who likes me and is on my side. And I am no stranger to miracles.
Do you need a miracle? Like it or not, I’ve given you what has always worked for me. It’s the very best advice I’ve got: “God, let’s not make this about how good I am. Let’s make it about how good you are.”
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.
Are there things for which you are thankful?
Roy H. Williams
PS – I wrote this memo fully aware that 4 groups of people will complain:
Interesting blog, I’ve bearly taken noticed. Just BTW: I fall into all four categories when responding to a crisis.
I think I am a combination of all of the above. I try very hard to go to God and have for as long as I can remember. But what happens when you believe so hard, so strong, and rely on God’s word to the point of lunacy only to be let down and disappointed. Now I don’t mean disappointed in the small things, but in the big things like, having food on the table or having a roof over your head or salvation for a loved one. God said that we shouldn’t worry about what we were going to eat or what we were going to wear because just as he provided food for the birds of the air and clothed the fields with an array of flowers, he would provide for us too. Yes, I know we have to work as well, and that I do. But what if your income isn’t enough? What if you are the one reaping the “curse of the fathers upon their children?” I only ask because I am losing the battle to hold onto my faith. I am getting weaker and weaker by the moment and although I have cried out to God for help, as yet, none as come. I am helpless aside from Jesus Christ and the mercy of God. I cling to him as tightly as I can but with each tear my eyes become so clouded that I cannot see hope. Without hope, how can one continue to live? What this all boils down to is how do we get out of the cycle? Or do we ever?
You made me smile, Roy – even laugh for a second or two. And you did that on what is possibly the darkest day of my entire life so far.
It is also worth noting – for me, I mean – that the last comment before mine was written on the very day my life collapsed. All at once there was nothing. And what followed, until now, has been just an endless exploration of a way out.
To no avail, it seems.
I am not a whiner. I used to step over abysses with a smile, not telling anyone about any problems. Which is why I solved them – with the help of God, perhaps – myself. And those whom I loved never had to needlessly worry.
Other than that, I am – or used to be – the “little girl” type myself. And I like your way of “negotiating”. 😉
I used to – still do – the very same. (How could anyone presume to even tackle the matter of “merit”?)
But today… Never in my entire life have I cried – out loud – with such passion for God to show some mercy to me. What I am going through is inhumane. Nobody should suffer as much!
Why then me?
Why should I – often foolish but always trusting, often silly but unwaveringly kind and compassionate to others – be left to wake up every day to a living hell? (BTW, I can only sleep after I’ve knocked myself out with pills.)
And yet… There is nothing. I can feel it. What I mean is, I have no future left. Literally: I can see no future, precisely because I have always been a very lucid dreamer (only not in the “technical”, oniric sense of the expression).
Only a miracle – and not a small one, a HUGE miracle, such that only God can perform – could have and would have saved me.
If God hasn’t responded until now… I think it’s safe to stop expecting it.
I won’t, of course. I suppose I will be expecting an Earth-shattering miracle until my breath runs out.
I’ll still go on believing – firmly and unconditionally believing – in miracles, until there’s no breath left in me.
But that’s simply because that belief is the only thing left in my life. It doesn’t matter where I turn to, there is no place of comfort for me. (Because, you see, it’s not about A thing or perhaps two that have “gone wrong”.)
Anyway, I wanted to THANK YOU, Roy – most especially, for not peddling that old tired “God’s will” routine…
That omission was like a balm to my heart.
(If you only knew how many times I’ve been hurt in the past few months by the pseudoreligious babbling – well-intended, I suppose, though some Schadenfreude is not to be ruled out – of people who don’t even know me or the very peculiar circumstances of my life!)
So, thank you for the little breath, for the little respite this blog entry (however old) has provided to me today.
And I do *sincerely* hope God is kinder to you and to your loved ones than It is to me.
(No, I am not going to use a He or a She; I may be falling apart but I am still not a cretin. Not that anyone who does call It “He” is… It’s a long story – but I have ran out of time.))