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When I was younger, I remember, I didn’t believe in God.
I remember repeating what my father had once told me in a rare moment of genuine sharing. My cousin died and my Dad sat alone on the swing in our backyard. I had never seen him not engaged in some activity, whether it was chopping wood, or raking leaves, or digging a ditch. He was always working. On this day he was on the swing, not swinging just sitting. I was young, but not too young. My mother had just approached me as I walked in the house, and told me my cousin had been in a fatal accident. Unable to understand, I asked if he was ok, and she said, no, he died. I walked through the garage into the green shady vast green expanse of the back yard and saw my father. I walked up to him, he was crying.
He looked at me and said, “Why? If there is a God, then Why?” I remember thinking, that there must not be a God.
I didn’t see my Dad cry again until his nervous system had decided to stop controlling his muscles, and the ravages of Parkinson turned this once-active working man into a shuffling, muttering shell. During occasional lucid moments, his mind grasped his current situation. But the connection to the muscles that form sound and voice failed, and no words would come forward, he cried. Not the loud sobbing cries of a man who had lost his teenage nephew, but the silent tears of the trapped begging for release.
By the time my father died, I believed in God again but different.
It’s hard to allow him the space in my mind without feeling… something, and it seemed to be sadness. Loss? Anger? Frustration? Panic? Disappointment?
That’s when I realized that it wasn’t God, it was my dad, and it was all of the sad terrible losses that had accumulated over the years. And it was my powerlessness to change history. I heard the squeak of that closet door opening to let out all those hidden hurts.
Like the junk closet, where you put stuff you don’t want to use, but can't throw out, this closet was full. So full that every time I open it to stow another negative emotion or hurt, something else tumbled out.
Things like; my cousins death, 9/11, Sandy Hook, my dad, and a gazillion other things from my ex-husband to how I’m treated at work, all come to light as they fall out of the closet door.
The constant barrage of words pushing at me with their obvious and subliminal meaning. The never-ending thrust towards fear. Fear of your neighbor, your health, your co-worker, your boss, other drivers on the road, the person ringing your doorbell who may bring fear, lack, panic, disappointment, and loss.
Shove it all in the closet and close the door.
Then I recognized that God isn't a who... but rather a what. And when I disconnected from the story I tell about what he has done or not done for me, I recognized him immediately beside me. Surrounding me.
God helped me bravely stand in front of that closet door, and throw the door open wide.
Yes, my Dad tumbled out, and I smiled as I helped him stand up and walk away. I realized that he isn’t in pain or ravaged by the effects of dis-ease, but he's rather wildly free.
And the avalanche of a million slights and mishaps, missteps, ill-spoken words, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time lay in a pile at my feet. Things I wish I had never done, and things I wish hadn’t been done to me. Things I wish had never done to anyone.
We stood and looked at them, some squirming to the top, taunting me to put them back in the closet.
As I gave my attention to each item, I forgave indiscriminately. I forgave myself, my ex-husband, the shooter, the victim, the teacher, and more. I forgave everything and everyone. I held onto to nothing and one by one, the pile in front of me slipped away.
These things didn't go back into the closet, but became part of my history, and were no longer who I am now. Now, these things are information, not haunting reminders. Like a history book, no longer part of who I am, but available as reference material.
Yes, it’s true, some things took longer to observe away. My mind screamed at me to embrace the item and shove it back in the closet because without it defining me, then who am I?
As I allowed myself to release the negative emotions, I was able to let go of God’s hand.
And I looked down, it was my own hand.
Now standing in front of the empty closet, it became a door.
I stepped through and shut it behind me.