It seems there has been quite a bit of bad news here at ChezWhat? lately. Bad news in the form of deaths of young people in the springtime…altogether wrong.
And the computer in our house sometimes needs a hiatus. And ChezWhat? has been fun, but as I was talking to Suley, it was mentioned that the nature of blogging sometimes frankly makes me want to be ill. I am rendered vaguely nauseas by the daily blogging wherein the minute details of my existence are revealed for what they are…largely uninteresting.
I have come up with some things I wanted to blog about…none very witty, snarky, insightful necessarily…but just stuff I linger on in my thoughts. Sometimes just putting them out there illuminates them enough to see if they really have any merit, or if they are just there.
Has to do with some of the parables that Christ spoke in, particularly when he referred to those who believed in him as his “flock”. Sheep. It is so very pastoral, isn’t it?
When I was newer in my faith, there was a part of me that wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of being a sheep. More of me wanted to feel like I was in control–like my life was mine, that I set goals and that I reached them. I controlled my life. I just wasn’t all that crazy in a way about being a sheep. But it didn’t bug me that bad, not enough to renounce being a Christian anyway.
Actually, a part of me found a little comfort in it, so that when I did stuff that was inconsistent with being a Christian and that hurt me or hurt another person, I could kind of shed some responsibility for my actions by this sheep parable. “I wandered off into the woods” I would think, feeling somehow like it was inevitable that I would do it, so I couldn’t have been all that bad.
Then I went back to this idea of control. And I tried to think of how people control their lives. And it’s tricky, because I think I feel like I control my life, but then like a lightning bolt, it hit me…
We can control almost NOTHING about our lives. For example, we don’t control who are our parents or family are, and that is the first point of extreme impact in our lives.
We cannot control where we are born, when we are born or of what circumstances…poverty/wealth, war/peace etc.
We cannot control our communities, who our teachers are, who our neighbors are…we cannot even control how much money we make largely, though we may try to tilt the odds in our favor.
We cannot control who it is that will leave the biggest impressions on us, we cannot control our own personalities, what we will be attracted to or not.
We cannot control the quality of the food available to us, the quality of the environment, the health care or the jobs we are given.
We cannot control our predilection to education, we cannot control the bodies or minds we are given, whether they are good or bad.
We cannot control who our children are (try as we might), our health or the health of those around us, we cannot control our mental health beyond things like getting enough sleep.
We don’t really even know if we will be fired from our jobs tomorrow because of the economy, if our spouse will turn and ask for a divorce or seek outside love.
We cannot control whether we will be loved or not, though we can certainly try.
We cannot control even if there will be a tomorrow, if the sun will rise, the earth turn…or if there is if our house will still stand, as we cannot control severe weather, epidemics or war.
We as individuals, I realized we honestly can’t control hardly anything. Not to incite fear, but we are as fragile as little bubbles.
This hit me in the car, and I almost drove off the road.
Ok, I didn’t but I was at once astonished at this “realization”. Not just for me but for every person walking around breathing, just how tenuous and kind of delicate our little worlds all of a sudden seemed in this light.
I thought “This can’t be right” “We must DO SOMETHING!”
And since then I have been trying to figure…is this really the case, that we are so powerless?
Hasn’t this occurred to anyone else? Do people not realize these things? Is this just a bad dream? Am I being kooky? But all this is true, we honestly cannot control any of these things, and there are probably more things I didn’t even think of…
So a few things are within our control.
We can decide how we treat people, how much we prioritize our relationships. We can control how we respond to the people we love, and how we express our emotions (yes this is within our control, though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it). We can decide where we live, sort of. We can decide what we want to pursue in life and what we want to avoid. We can decide what we believe. We can decide things like what car we drive or what clothes we wear. We can decide, in America anyway, how we will spend our time, go on vacation if we get one. But these things are so, so, so…well to me they seem so small, so minute, so limited. I mean, what, we can control our bodies and what we do with our money. Sort of.
Then I kind of went back to the sheep thing. I was thinking about something I read in this Donald Miller book where he talks about Psalm 23 and how the valley of the shadow of death was a real place outside of Jerusalem, where the shepherds had to navigate their herds through this craggy rocky valley in order to get the sheep to the good place to graze. How the shepherd would use his staff to actually lift the stuck sheep over the rocks, and how the rod that is referred to was used to beat off hungry wild animals.
I guess at this time with this realization of how at the mercy of everything our lives seemed, the notion of having a shepherd didn’t seem so bad. In fact, it seemed kind of like a relief.
For me I suppose, the past year has poignantly illustrated this felt lack of control to really change anything.
This past year brought Jeff and I to our knees financially and in our hearts. The anxiety, anguish was pretty much as bad as I ever experienced it.
Briefly, for a dad, if his wife divorces him, there are no laws to ensure that the dad will ever see his kids again. There are only laws to ensure that he pays child support.
Mom has a free ticket to ride. She can move anywhere she wants, dad has to provide 50% transport if he wants to see the kids. She can move to Italy or across the country. On a plane they will charge 200 dollars on top of the price of the ticket for every kid under 15. Driving may take days, but dad has no recourse if he wants to see the kids.
The child support itself may break the back of his new family, costing them as much as a mortgage on a house.
And it doesn’t even matter why the divorce occurred, say for example, if it occurred because after the wife was unfaithful repeatedly, it doesn’t matter.
Lawyers in Portland cost 250 an hour. A retainer $2,500. If one lives in a half million dollar home and enjoys a six figure income, this may be no biggie. That 1% of the US population. We are not in that 1%.
Needless to say, she moved. She said it would be temporary. She lied. We didn’t see the kids for close to a year.
She does not answer the phone, does not return calls, does not encourage the kids to call dad or even respond to a call from him. She often doesn’t give the letters we send… she doesn’t even call them by their biological name. At one point she moved them 1000 miles away to a hotel without telling J, where they dropped out of school and lived in motels as they suffered from chicken pox. A delightful woman.
What justice can a person hope for? What control do we really have?
We had to evaluate what we could do. There wasn’t much.
So if I were reading this I would be thinking “Well there are two sides to every story, maybe this guy was an abuser…” I can’t really even dignify that–I wouldn’t be with him were he inclined thus, it has never been an issue or even a shadow of one. There is no family history of it. Not verbal or physical. No restraining orders. She however was sexually abused for about 5 years of her young life, the perpetrator served time.
Enough already, I’ll never heal if I pick at these wounds.
God takes away with one hand and at the same time gives with the other. We have to keep a perspective of what we can do–primarily to show the kids we are always here and always love them. That’s about all we can do.
Several times though, throughout this whole thing–with simmering outrage, suppressed anger, I realized though just how well prepared we arrived at this tragedy. Adeline is a perpetual joy. She is the child who naps without a fuss, sleeps without issue, eats like a horse and is of perpetual good disposition. We made several sets of friends who either had traversed or were traversing the same path. Jeff got a job he loves, I was able to go part time and raise my girl. And through out all this, our marriage maintained. In some ways, I feel alot calmer now. Nothing seems like a real problem compared to this.
I don’t know how a person could face these kinds of circumstances without going crazy unless they knew God was there…leading us through those valleys.