It was like a conspiracy against sleep Wednesday night. The temperatures haven't settled into Fall yet, and the leaves are still holding tight. From Wednesday evening into Thursday, the wind blew so strong, the treetops stirred and rustled until it sounded like an ocean surf. After Hurricane Sandy knocked age-old trees down like dominoes around here, we all began noticing the height of those that remained. At 2 AM, the strongest gust triggered a neighbor's car alarm.
Okay, I'm up.
After I was wide awake, the wind quieted. The car alarm was twerped into silence and the world was serene again. (Except for the vehicle that echoed through the neighborhood without a muffler.) but really, at 3:45 a.m. I'm deciding whether or not my day has started.
My thoughts drifted to a conversation I had with a friend the day before. She'd been prompted to join an online dating service. She gave in, and her "likes" lit up. Right off, she received a sweet, eloquent message from somebody who shared similar interests and asked to know more about her, adding a series of questions. A man who wanted to know more details. Maybe that was a good sign.
The next morning, she grabbed a cup of coffee and looked at the questions, clicking the proverbial pencil between her teeth. Four hours later, her eyeballs crossed.
"It was a really long letter. And he's holding a small dog in his photo. That's probably not a good sign." The questions he posed were deeper than she was ready or able to go, and I wondered, why are we so afraid to just be ourselves, to say what we mean to say?
"It's not an Olympian writing contest. Be yourself," I said. Smug advice from somebody who can't decide whether it's time to start the day or not at 3:45 a.m. and, more than that, from somebody who's hedging on a story I want to share on this blog. Why? I'll save that for later. I'd like to tell the story.
I was seventeen, the age when cranking up the volume of music until the speakers rattled was distraction from crisis. I was the thinnest, funniest, and prettiest that I'd ever be, which was right in there with the larger population of average kids. I felt the power of growing up: greater respect from adults and peers, inside school and out, more independence in my personal life: driver's license, Faded Glory jeans, the whole bit.
Walking through Kings Plaza one day, I was approached by two men in full clown costumes. "Do you know where you're going when you die?" one asked. I laughed and kept walking, "Heaven I hope," I said. "Want to be sure?" I stopped walking.
I was raised in a Christian home. I played pretend with the little figures inside the stable every Christmas when I was a child. I loved the characters, and I knew their story. We attended church every Sunday throughout our youth. I made my confirmation. But at no time had I ever heard it asked that way, and I did want to be sure. The two clowns showed me the scriptures, explaining God's plan of salvation, just the way one would lay out map to see where the roads connect. The ultimate toll was paid for my life. Did I want to accept his gift?
Yes, I did. In the middle of Kings Plaza, those two clowns prayed for me. I didn't feel an ounce of shame or apprehension. I felt peace. And I knew from that moment on that I would never be alone again.
When we moved into our first house decades later, I told that story to a neighbor. I didn't know why I told her and, actually, I regretted that the words rolled right off my tongue once they were out. She just looked at me with a blank stare and said nothing. Zilch. Nada. When I went home, I thought, well, one neighbor down. She definitely thinks I'm a freak.
About one hour later, my phone rang. It was the neighbor. "Do you get the Catholic Channel?" she asked. "Yes, why?" "Turn it on," she said. I turned it on and there were two clowns speaking with a host, telling the story of how they went from place to place sharing the message of salvation. I was stunned. "This isn't for me," I said, "this is for you. I already know it happened."
Just like I didn't know why I was driven to tell the story back then, I don't know why I'm telling it now. So maybe somebody out there in cyber space is supposed to read it. His gift was for you. Godspeed.
Over the years, I stopped talking about my faith. Why give Christianity a bad name? How many times must I be reminded that the life and death of Jesus Christ was never about our perfection, only his. He gave his life for us all, and never asked us to be perfect, just to align ourselves with his love. When we do that, we're more compelled to make better choices.
I'd like to share an audio recording that I listened to from one of my favorite blogs last week. It's one of the best explanations I've ever heard for why it freaks us out that we haven't arrived at perfection. I hope you appreciate it as much as I did. Click here ---> A Promise of Hope