John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise LXXI: Remove the Plastic

(Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash)

John Michael’s column Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise ponders life and people. In “Remove the Plastic,” he shares about shoveling snow, bath bombs, and relating to Peter and Christ.

 

The high hills around my village are covered in snow and when the sun is out, my goodness, how beautiful they appear. There are small birds who hang out in the trees and on the eaves of my place. I like to watch them in the morning and wonder how they are doing. I don’t think they were expecting this weather.

We have more snow in my little village than we have had in a long time. It’s snowing currently and we will see how much it adds to the ten inches already there. This means I will be up early shoveling snow at a friend’s apartment complex, which also means I won’t be sleeping in like usual. But I must say, my body feels good getting the exercise.

Snow shovels are sold-out all over town, so I borrowed my neighbor’s.

“Don’t break it,” he said.

I accidentally broke it and left it out front of our apartment building.

The neighbor shows up at my door and asks, “Did you break my shovel?”

I answered, “No, just the handle.”

“Okay,” he said, “I can fix it.”

Honestly, I’m still scratching my head a little about that.

My apartment has a tub I have been indulging in lately. All sorts of new and lovely thoughts have been entering my head this Winter. I like being kind to myself, I thought as I was preparing for a bath the other night. I’m learning lots of new stuff as well; like, bath bombs work far better when you take the plastic off. I remember seeing the plastic and I guess I thought it would magically dissolve too. It did not. But the plastic eventually did come off. I found it when feeling around for the loofah.

 

Bath bombs work far better when you take the plastic off. I remember seeing the plastic and I guess I thought it would magically dissolve too. It did not.

 

It’s a mystery to me how small Bible passages and stories can make me emotional. At the last supper, Christ gave his apostles one last commandment, “Love one another.” I was at community dinner a couple of weeks ago and thought, Jesus Christ, it really is that simple. Not trying to be funny with the cursing there, that’s just how my mind works. I could feel my heart ease some after that. Saint John, it is rumored, used to make that his entire sermon: Love one another.

Lately, I have been contemplating Peter’s relationship with Christ. I assume most people have heard that Peter denied knowing Christ three times just before Jesus was crucified, after spending most of the Gospel pronouncing his undying love for his teacher. After his resurrection, Christ appeared before Peter and the rest of the Apostles. This is where I have been inserting myself into Peter’s role.

Christ asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

As Peter, I ask myself, Isn’t the real question, Lord, do you still love me? Something I’ve been unsure of all my life. How can I deserve to love you, after all of the sinning I’ve been up to? By sinning, I simply mean hating myself and hating other people. I also have secretly thought, If God loved me how could I have been molested? But I resolved that internally a couple of years ago.

So, I’ve been saying it aloud, just like Peter did, “Yes, I love you.”

 


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Christ and I are close to reconciliation, I suspect, which means I am close to allowing my heart to both love and receive love.

I was out in search of snow shovels a couple of days ago and, as I said, was unable to find one at the several places I went to. But I did pick up a ten-pound bag of birdseed for the little friends around my place. It seemed like a loving thing to do.

You can take the Bible as fact or wisdom stories. You can believe in Christ as real, as a metaphor, or not at all. We are all pretty innocent, really. “Love one another,” knowing that you absolutely deserve to love and be loved.

 

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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