John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise III

John Michael continues his series, reflecting on life and people encountered, with two new stories about elevating your relationship with God and not fearing the past.

 

Belong with God

I had been running a Sunday community feed for about three years at a local homeless outreach center. I was recently informed by the places director on Saturday by text that the next day would be the last time I would be able to use their facility for our dinner. All my attempts to reach somebody in authority by phone or in person went for nothing. Thank you, Christian Non-Profit Organization, for hurting my feelings. That last sentence is satire, to provide myself with some laughter.

I believe we simply had different visions. Mine was to make friends and be as kind as possible to people in distress. Their vision includes kindness I am sure, but also a lot of extra stuff that doesn’t help homeless people that much but makes them feel better as Christians.

I was mediating this morning and had a thought I did not fully understand: Belong with God. How many little pieces of ourselves do we give away throughout our lives to meet the desire to belong?

There was some real grief for me around the community feed ending so abruptly, but also a little bit of feeling sorry for myself too. That ended quickly after I ran into a couple of people with some real health concerns that scared them.

As for grief, I am understanding it better all the time. It may be, if dealt with properly, what leads to compassion. I wrote a letter to the non-profit board this afternoon over at a local coffee shop. There was no malice in it, just me explaining my perspective on what happened. I just let the grief sit there in my heart and, after a time, it dissipated and my heart felt kinder and softer.

Another rare thought came into my mind as I was headed over to Salvation army for dinner after I finished my coffee: Surprised to be this happy.

I gave some friends a ride home from dinner and I was talking about the ROC feed ending, and I realized where some of the grief was coming from. That Sunday dinner was the one place where I felt I did belong. It was such a loving community for me. I was homeless myself and find that group of people responds much more enthusiastically to kindness than other groups I interact with. Most don’t seem to trust kindness, have interaction patterns based on cynicism, and are too worried about their status to feel good about hugging and holding hands.

Later this evening, the third odd thought arrived to complete the trilogy: I don’t want to belong anymore. What a lovely thought; to speak and to be, freely and easily, without a worry or care if you find yourself accepted or rejected by those around you. To come and go in the company of God without worrying about whether others want you to stay or not.

Belong with God, above all else; every family, every extended family, every community is temporary. To belong with God, to raise that relationship above all the temporary situations we find ourselves in, to help each other find our true home in the eternal.

 

Do Not Be Afraid to Look Back, Folks

Childhood, the mystery there. It could be where we collect our past life Karma, although I am not sure of that. But those wounds certainly create how we see the world, whether it is safe or full of fear. They can stay with us unto death, unless and until we find a way to love again.

My mom recently said she had a good day. I had not heard anything like that from her since … I do not know when. I felt like I had an unhealthy attachment to her for most of my life. But I can set decent boundaries these days, with love instead of malice.

Her biggest childhood wound was being admitted to a hospital at around age two, and I can’t honestly remember what is was for. But the hospital would not allow her visitors, including her parents. I was talking to her about it today as maybe the source of her abandonment issues. She said, “I was never sure whether I would be left again or not.” That wound may have been touched again when she was sent to boarding school in her early teens. Now her clinging to me with a sort of desperation is certainly easier to bear and to forgive, now that I know the source.

People who are not comfortable looking at their own past often ask me why I want to talk about these things. Well, I like to think I am dragging them into the light, so to speak. I had a ton of self-hate and some abandonment issues myself after being molested. For many years I was afraid to look back, wanted to keep it buried. Not sure why, other than when I tried to bring it up, it made others extremely uncomfortable. And also, to find if I was to blame, that it was somehow unforgivable.

That seems unthinkable now that I know God to be full of mercy and tenderness for us all. So, do not be afraid to look back, folks, in order to heal. Look back with forgiveness, kindness, and compassion.

 

John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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