I spent a little time at the Flint River over spring break...A solo, ill-conceived trip early on where I nearly died of hypothermia... and then a later day paddle with Tony and Ryan. I theorize that a very low-stress environment for the initial nicotine detox with a slow, gradual reintroduction to real life may be the ticket to successfully putting down the cigarettes for good on this, my 100th( or so) attempt. The Flint River, and the wild country around Blood Mountain/The Coosa Trail are perfect for getting away from the urgent annoyances that drive a man to smoke. Lost in the quiet, he can endure the withdrawal process, and the simple unavailability of cigarettes helps allow the mind to be distracted from the spiritual/mental/physical itch of unsatisfied addiction. Allowing a man to reach a calmer place during that critical 72 hours of initial nicotine cessation greatly increases his ability to withstand the unavoidable stresses awaiting in the future. It gives him a state of mind already invested in a short period of sustained abstinence. If it has been years, or decades since he had any significant freedom from tobacco, this is a pleasant novelty. His mindset is more committed, better suited to maintaining a new healthier way of breathing. He is like a wounded warrior forced to defend himself before he is healed. It cannot be helped. In my fantasies, He returns from the outdoors with a little time under his belt, so to speak. He is better prepared for the inevitable battle with the nicotine demon that must be faced soon, under real-world circumstances, far from the soothing sound of water trickling over rock.
That's the theory anyway. Prayers, please. :) I got 83 and a half hours... Tony, my friend from antiquity, has been a huge blessing in my life lately, and watching him as a father and observing the impact time and love have had on his growth are inspiring to me. I love to go paddling with the Cantrell boys...
My heart breaks. (For some reason, people talk to me, and I am amazed repeatedly at the level of disclosure individuals communicate to me casually. There is a post in there somewhere, but I digress.)
I remember my divorce. It nearly killed me, and even today- 4 years hence, I get a little funny, slow to let a woman get to know me.
My parents divorced when I was eleven, and my sister was two. I think of this, when my neighbor's children speak to me. The call me Mr. Chris, or in the case of the little girl, Mwistah Kwis. I get along with children, though I have none of my own. I wonder about this sometimes, what these two find winsome about me. I have been told I appear intimidating, and that I am arrogant. Nonetheless, my neighbor's kids have taken to me like fish to water. I actually have had to be a little firm. The little shits began to just walk up in my house, without so much as a knock on the door, like they owned the place. This is not a good in today's world, when a man lives alone. I liked it though. I was a little sad that I had to put a stop to it.
The kids know something is going on, and they say hello as we bump into one another in the driveway, spectators... watching mom and dad dismantle the family they have grown up thinking of as their world, an integral part of themselves. People come help Dad, and take some stuff to one place, and other people come help Mom, and take stuff to some other place. It's like we're are watching the amputation of a limb, but they are too anesthetized to fully comprehend the import of this operation, and the fact that it is happening to them. They will never forget this Christmas.
The teenagers are a little more distant. It's the young ones that think of me as one of their peeps. The kids I'm talking about are maybe four and six. I've taken pictures of them. Let them disrupt my schedule. Packed up bottles of water and taken them for a walk. They are delighted with my dog, Suzy. To watch her catch a frisbee is a huge treat for them, and Mr. Chris is a magician, or a prophet. I wish I had had children, and I am angry. I grieve. I wish they were gonna have a better Christmas. I remember being in their position...
I walked home from school, to the first house my family owned.... less than a mile from where I live today. (actually, my parents bought a house previously, before we PSCed, but I was too young to remember.) Someone, either Mom or Dad told me to come to my room, downstairs. There, my mother explained to me that she would leave, as my father remained silent. I imagine this was negotiated. I think the deal was: "This is your idea, YOU tell him." My mother was crying, struggling to speak, explaining details beyond my comprehension. I began to cry.
Everyone was crying.
I'm not gonna go too far down that path in this post, but of all the things where I may bear some slight resemblance to my savior, my feelings about divorce are probably as close as humanly possible to the divine benchmark. God hates divorce, and so do I. Donald Miller tells us that some 80 percent (I think... don't quote me) of our prison inmates grew up without a father in the house.
I wonder what went through God's mind when he divorced Israel. I second guessed. I agonized. I wondered if I was giving up to soon. At least I had someone I could pray to. That staggers me. God went through a divorce, and he had no one to pray to. I know today that divorce is distressingly common, and these kids won't stick out like sore thumbs, the way my sister and I did, but still my heart goes out, and I am sad for them.
Of each the work shall become manifest, for the day shall declare it, because in fire it is revealed, and the work of each, what kind it is, the fire shall prove; 1 Corinthians 3;13 Do I really want to drag my feet with this? No, I don't think so... I need to redouble my efforts. I have been blessed to feel like I've been spoke to, and at times months, years, eternities have gone by when the foxhole prayers of self-centeredness have bounced off the ceiling. This daunting challenge is a good thing. "I have a plan for you. It's not gonna be entirely what you think, but I have shown you in dreams a shadow, a translucent abstraction of the potential life that awaits you, should you do your part. I will not force you. and I will not make everything easy for you. You tend to get a little childish when you get blessings without effort. My Grace is yours. Take it, run with it. Tighten up. I want you to do a few things... I want you to quit smoking. Some people smoke all their lives, and die of natural causes. This will not be the case with you, and you approach the point where procrastination will sign your death warrant. Obey me in this, and see what I do. Quit rejecting the directive to make an attempt at a task I put in front of you, out of fear of failure or loneliness. This, I will not reward. I want and expect you to TRY. You must remember Zombieland rule # 1 (cardio). Do not let my lenience mislead you. Though you are in amazing shape considering your lifestyle, harsh reality awaits around the corner,if you don't get a handle on this. Irreparable damage may have already been done. You have your father's genes, and have been denied his quality of health care all your adult life. My pity will only carry you so far. Tell yourself no. Much more often than you have the habit of doing. You take solace in the fact that you have had many bad habits taken from you, and feel like you deserve to relax. It sounds suspiciously like you are taking credit for how far I have brought you. Beware. Stay single for a season. This is not something I will require of you forever, but you are busy, and broken. You carry this liability into every romance, damaging yourself, and my daughters. Become the man I have given you the ability to be, first. You have ignored my gentle persuasion and it has littered your past with broken hearts including your own. Be careful, lest you die alone, only half of the flesh I intend for you to be. Do this and see how I amaze you. Has my fingertip upon your life not left you awestruck many times in the past? Trust me. Handle your studies to the best of your abilities. Your self-pity, and worry will leach success from your future. Do your part, and I shall do mine. Talk to me. Every day, spend at least a few brief moments with me. This will improve your concentration, which you desperately need. You should stop running away from your feelings with writing and photography. You abuse these skills when you do so. This little thing you do is not what I gave you these skills for. Prioritize. Learn to manage the things you need for the future I have waiting for you, and see how much space I open in your schedule... remember I invented time. You've cut it pretty close, but we can do this. With your honest surrender, I can pull this off."
I think what He's telling me, in other words, is: 'You've come a long way... don't fuck this up.'
Can reverence coexist with intimacy? are respect and reverence on the same continuum? I remember fear going hand in hand with respect, As in my early relationship with my father, but this was hardly reverential. A popular (it seems) statement is that "fear" in the bible can be more accurately translated as reverential trust, but it seems to me, that contextually, this can not always be the case... for instance there is a passage where Jesus admonishes his listeners to not fear who can only kill the body, but rather, sensibly enough, to fear or fear more, the one who can destroy the body as well as the soul. Also, there is a passage where he warns in the parable of the servant who is forgiven a great debt...of the wrath that awaits if we do not forgive others. To substitute reverential trust for the mainstream concept of fear, makes both of these passages unworkable, does it not? I have a yardstick in my relational concept of the earthly father/son relationship that provides a basis for me to intuit/remember fear and intimacy side by side, though most definitely...the more fear... the less intimacy. It is difficult to reconcile reverence with intimacy...I associate intimacy with words like comfortable, relaxed, and familiar. I do not associate these with reverence. Can a man choose his feelings? We can act reverential, but this seems religious, and legalistic instead of relational. I seem powerless to choose my feelings. I cannot even choose to feel fear, but simply act wary if I think I should be cautious. My God, the God of the Bible, is so difficult to pin down and to understand. For so many years, to feel like I know someone has been equated with having a feel for their character, a knowledge of what they may say or do in certain situations. I am comfortable with the notion that paradox is inescapeable when considering the Maker of All Things, but still...Reverence is a form of Awe...or is it? This is difficult to think through and duty calls (sleep calls, too). Perhaps it is like a father who requires his sons to call him "Sir" (my own father did not do this, though for a brief period I addressed him as "Sir" because one of my friends did this with their dad, and I thought it was cool.) Resolution eludes me... but I feel that it is perhaps arrogant, this angst I feel. To insist fruitlessly that God interact with me according to the template of my experience and expectation.