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20 February 2012

Eight Years Toward Thou

Eight years ago yesterday, I woke up as at-home-Dad, Priest and Vicar of small-town-Texas, Chaplain of USAF Axillary, reporter for small-town-Texas local paper, moonlighting as a school bus driver.

"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. "

Eight years ago today, in spiritual terms, the sniper's bullet missed, and instead of taking my life in an instant, left me for dead, mortally wounded, behind enemy lines.

Eight years ago today, in spiritual terms, the arson's match lighted the fire which consumed all that I knew, all that I owned, and as I ran through the house trying to save those I loved, found that the arson had saved the children from the flames, but none had searched for me.

Eight years ago today, I woke up as a Daddy without children, a Priest without a church, a neighbor without a home, a son without parents, a husband without a wife, and grieving without being grieved.


There was a time, lying in the forest, blood seeping from the wound, when I raged at the dawning that none had come to search for me.  The sudden, bitter awareness that those I had considered "us" were, in fact, a "them."

I had always wanted to be the Good Samaritan, but it had not occurred to me that I would be the one left for dead on the side of the road-- that I would be the one to lay in an almost unconscious state to hear and see the priest and then the Levite walk by, shunning me for my misfortune.

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'  Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"  He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
And wise men have written that the two denarii are the two Dominical Sacraments:  Baptism and Eucharist-- water and bread & wine which become the Body and Blood of Christ.  In other words, for what the world does to us, leaving us for dead, it is the mystical Church-- the Bride of Christ nourished by Christ himself which are given us.

Great, a fine mystical teaching of the purpose of the Church-- but it misses the point.

The point is that while we are told to be the Good Samaritan, we are also told that we are the traveler who is striped, beat up, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road.

Who in the Church wants to hear that?  I didn't.


So, for a while, I waited for the Good Samaritan to come by, take me to bind up my wounds, take me to a safe place, and know that whatever the innkeeper would spend in my care, would be returned to him when the Good Samaritan returns.

Still waiting.

Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side

When the priest passed by, even taking the trouble to cross to the opposite side of the road to avoid me, my hopes were abused.  When the Levite did the same, I took it personally.  I was an "us" but they were a "them."

For a while, my rage haunted me-- mocked me, taunted:

"You!  Here you are unable to help yourself, and your rage is therefore both impotent and silent! 

"Ha!  When you had the power and raged against injustice, you contented yourself with action-- but now you see what it is to be empty of such power, but full of the rage! 

"Learn the lesson of life and the world! You are nothing!"
And I learned that lesson and in it, saw myself even more as a lonely "us" in a world of "thems."

There were a few "us" milling about-- the walking wounded with their distant stares-- half shock, half choosing not to see. 

And when I looked in the mirror, to my horror, I saw that same stare.  The realization that those powerless, voiceless, almost invisible "them" were my "us" and that my former "us" were really a dis-compassionate "them."

I didn't ask for it, I didn't desreve it, and the losses I had suffered were not too great to count-- but they were too great to concede.  But, conceded or not, the reality of it did not care.  The last part of the delusion was the hardest of all to admit as such.

My delusion was that such things only happened to those who deserved it-- it is the delusion of my culture, of society, and of the modern, western, affluent Church. The delusion that the world is just, that God rewards the lives of the good and punishes the lives of the wicked-- but that Satan (lies, hate begotten by fear) has no role, no power, and no say in it.

And then there was the second delusion that believing the first would not cost me my life-- and that denying the first delusion would not cost even more.

Rejecting that delusion ever more fully, I have begun (only begun) to realize that the many priests who I have seen crossing to other side of the road to pass by me, suffer more greatly because of their delusion than I do because of my wounds.  It is the delusion which blinds them and causes them to ignore what their souls scream out for them to do.

And for every Levite that passes me, looking the other way, it is the fear that if they look, the delusion will evaporate and they may find themselves striped, robbed, beaten and left for dead if they dare doubt the lie.

So it is that the delusional ones are pitiable in their blindness and are my "us" after all.  

They believe the lie only because they have not been stripped, beaten, robbed and left for dead by it.


So if I am their "them" but they are my "us" then how is that reconcilled?

With patience?

Yes, but not with an expectation that my own "us" will ever embrace me.

In eight years, my silent rage is turning into a silent love-- a willingness to embrace those who would need such an embrace, but requiring them only to lie beside me for a time because I cannot go to them.


The Good Samaritan to come-- He has come and is yet to come.  The two denarii spent. 

Some who received their wages for my care knew the Source of their payment, some did not, and some merely demanded more before they would provide more care.  The delusion is rampant, but not total.

But as for the robbers who strip, rob, beat and leave for dead-- the Good Samaritan has left nothing for them, has He?

Not unless or until one or more of those come to lie beside me seeking an embrace-- which I think after eight years, I just might want to give.



I lie here on the side of the road for thou.

It is not a position of power. or self-direction  No place for smugness.  I hate that I cannot reach you over there on the other side of the road. 

I was traveling on that side of the road (but, perhaps, traveling to a different place than you) when I ended up here.

I still remember my former journey; but, now, I only long to find myself in the Inn where the Good Samaritan will bring me.


And in the quiet of the night, I wonder...  are the robbers, those who strip, and beat, and leave others for dead-- are they perhaps the most pitiable, the most lacking-in-embrace and the most delusional of all?

No, because they, most of all, know the reality of this life and the worldly value of the Lie which they serve.

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