I want to thank Beyond Blue reader Margaret for mentioning that my “Dear God” posts are one of the reasons she keeps coming back to Beyond Blue, because, as you can imagine, these reflections are hard to write. They force me to be honest with myself, to be meditative with a mind that is distracted in a million different directions, and to be honest with you, which require a vulnerability that is sometimes difficult to do. So, thank you, Margaret, I’ll try to be more disciplined about writing these every week.
Today in Book of Deuteronomy (11:18,26-28,32), we read:
I set before you here, this day, a blessing and a curse: a blessing for obeying the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today; a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, but turn aside from the way I ordain for you today, to follow other gods, whom you have not known.
Okay, God. The way I read this, you are saying that your commandments lead to happiness if we are disciplined enough to follow them. If we aren’t … well, that’s why we are so miserable. Either we follow your commandments and we’re set, or we cheat, and lie, and steal our way through life and we’re cursed, cursed, cursed, straight to hell.
I try to follow your commandments. I really try … like the little kid wobbling back and forth on his bike the first time he attempts to ride the thing
Ever since I made my First Holy Communion, I’ve wanted to get holy. What other ten-year-old would pen “How to Get to Heaven?” for her mom and her prayer-group friends?
But, as you might expect, I have a few questions regarding how, exactly, you win the halo. Because things in my life are surely not that black and white. I’ve been doodling with so many different colors in my life lately–not knowing which are good, and which are curses.
Here are the 10 commandments and where, I think, I stand:
I. ?I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me!
I plead guilty to that one. I find a few souvenirs and tokens of god-worshipping in my pockets every time I empty them out—receipts to Starbucks, post-its scribbled with blog ideas and book titles, phone numbers to friends that I am sure can save me from the person called “Therese.” They don’t look, smell, taste, or feel like gods. But in a way they are—career ambitions, unhealthy friendships, coffee obsessions—because they can take my focus off of you.
But here’s where I have the problem, God. I would have to live like a Benedictine monk for my life not to involve distractions. More on that later.
II. ?You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain!
Are you talking about cussing??? Please say no.
III. ?Remember to keep holy the LORD’S Day!
I’m pretty good on that one.
IV. ?Honor your father and your mother!
This one depends on where my therapy session falls in my menstrual cycle. If I go to counseling, for example, two days before my period starts, my mom gets blamed for everything from my bipolar disorder to my recent bouts of anxiety.
V. ?You shall not kill!
Phew. Good on that one. Now the intention to kill? That doesn’t count, right?
VI. ?You shall not commit adultery!
As far as I know, the answer is no. And I’m thinking it will stay no as long as I am sober.
VII. ?You shall not steal!
Steal words? Phrasing? Concepts? Ideas? Can you get more specific here? Because I would have to alienate myself from all people not to pick up some great material.
VIII.?You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor!
You mean lie, right? I came pretty darn close to lying to get out of jury duty. But it was for the greater good, I swear. That lying thing, though, opens a whole other file of questions to be discussed next blog post.
IX. ?You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife!
Since I’m heterosexual, I don’t covet my neighbor’s wife. In fact, we are friends.
X. ?You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods!
Now that’s a different story. Jealousy is where you’re going here, right? I got a big problem in this area, God. I’m hoping you could help me.
Basically, God, I think you are saying that if we cling to this world and its material goods—if we attach ourselves to people, places, and things right here—then we are going to feel depressed and anxious and cursed because they are temporary. They cannot give us the satisfaction and peace that you alone can offer. You are uttering a message similar to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism—that the origin of suffering is attachment to transient things, to the craving and clinging of wealth, or prestige, or fame, or popularity. And the path to peace lies in detaching from them.
My problem is that I don’t know how to be without attachment.
I like what retired bishop, John Shelby Spong says about that:
Security is so seductive, and insecurity is so frightening. But security is always false, and insecurity is always real. No religion can make anyone secure, though it, like the drugs on which our society is so dependent, can give the illusion of security. True religion enables one to grasp life with the radial insecurity and to live with courage. It does not aid us in the pretense that our insecurities have been taken away.