So we’ve come through the weekend and no rapture has occurred. No planes fell out of the sky, pilotless, no suddenly empty chairs at restaurants, no sets of clothes sitting on park benches, no empty operating tables, with nurses and doctors scratching their heads, wondering where the open heart surgery patient went.
For most of us, life goes on. We never gave much credence to the 89-year old preacher who predicted this weekend would be IT anyway. We made plans for Saturday and Sunday (today) and for next week, confident we’d see our way to getting them done.
Not so for a great number of other people though. Many – and a great majority didn’t go to the same church as Rev. Camping – were truly disappointed. One of my FB friends lamented this way of thinking, noting that many of her friends had offered up, without sarcasm, the sincere wish that the world would have ended this weekend.
I know for a fact that they mean it, because I used to wish the same thing. If you’re ultra-religious, you dress up that wish in robes of sanctity, by expressing the belief that you just want to “be with Jesus” finally. You lie to yourself and to others.
What you really mean though is that you’re trapped in a life that offers nothing but a grinding emotional, spiritual and intellectual poverty; a life married to a spouse whom you’re growing to despise, because the Bible says that once married you must stay that way; a life that negates your sexuality – if you enjoy it too much, you’re probably putting your soul in peril; a life in which the only promise of joy is one that is provided after you slip this mortal coil.
If you’re young, and living with a menacing, raging alcoholic father, in a family of six kids with the constant night-time sounds of him trying his best to beat the shit out of her, you’re miserable too. God hasn’t answered your prayers and killed him, so you kind of wish the rapture would come. And on a Saturday night when it’s really bad, and all you can hear is the bellowing, and the crying and the sounds of fist hitting flesh, you want the rapture to come now, damn it.
And later on, when you’ve married someone who has the same rage issues as your father (a psychiatrist’s money train condition, if ever there was one), and you’ve realized what you’ve done, you wish in those silent moments of thought, that she would maybe get hit by a car. You gasp at your own thought, and immediately repent of it. Then there are times when it’s bad, and you wish YOU were dead.
“Please God – take me home now” becomes a constant prayer.
And then later on, just because you’re morbidly curious, you begin googling ways to kill yourself. And then there’s that time when you were driving down the road, late at night, and there’s a little voice in your head, suggesting that it wouldn’t take much, at the speed your car is going. Just a little twitch to the right, and it would be all over. There’s a whole forest of trees there. Just need to smash hard into one of them, and you’re home-free.
What really makes me sad is knowing that the above is true for so many people. Mostly those who’ve never quite matured in their thinking, who don’t know that they can author their own changes. People who’ve never taken the time to examine themselves, and find out who they are. People who are *still* wrapped up in the cling-wrap of religious dogma, or in the expectations of others.
People who have never learned what it means to LIVE.
My process started the night I almost ran the car off of the road. The force of that impulse was so strong, that I realized I was in trouble. So I sought help. The family physician – who, though not a psychiatrist, happened to specialize in cognitive therapy – helped me through it. It took a bit of time to realize that those “little voices” didn’t just get there. We talk to ourselves all the time. She told me how to figure out what I was telling myself, to pay attention, and even to write it down. At first, I was skeptical.
“No way, Doc. I don’t talk to myself. I’m troubled but not crazy.”
“We all do” she said. “Here’s how you figure it out: the next time you feel a strong emotion – disgust, joy, sadness, anger, whatever – stop and look back to what you were thinking, or feeling just before that emotion arrived. It’ll take time, because emotions don’t just suddenly happen: they build up over a stretch of thoughts. Then, write it down. Do this every time.”
I did it. And discovered she was right.
Then I realized I’m not a captive victim. That I have options and choices.
One of those choices was about my marriage, which was clearly on the rocks. Self-illumination is great, but the slow build-up of confining dogma is a tough trap to crawl out of. It means re-examining every single thing you’ve ever believed. I had to start slow.
The particular dogma that kept me captive in a miserable marriage was this one: God hates divorce. And the way I finally saw my way around that one had to do with Jesus’ stance on sinning – which He described as an occurrence of the heart, long before the deed.
So I asked myself, honestly: “when do you think divorce happens, in God’s eyes? Does it happen when the judge brings the gavel down?”
And I answered myself, with relief: “it happens in the heart, long before a lawyer learns of your intent.”
My wife and I agreed we needed to separate. So I went looking for an apartment, knowing full well I couldn’t expect much, since as a result of the separation agreement, much of my income would be gone.
I found a place. It was a little one-bedroom apartment above a store-front in the downtown section of the city. I could live there, just existing really. I was worried though, because my credit rating was sucking mud at the time.
I remember the day I got the call and was told the apartment was mine. I thanked the landlord and then went to a nearby diner to have breakfast. Before the waitress brought my order, I sat and thought about it all. And suddenly, in that very public place, I got a lump in my throat. Nothing worse than being a big macho guy, suddenly realizing you’re going to have some unwanted tears. But that’s what happened. I was relieved, elated, joyous. That vicious weight had resided in my chest for so long, I didn’t realize just how heavy it was until it finally lifted, the day I was told my apartment application was approved.
(I got around the sudden tears by fumbling around and grabbing my wrap-around sunglasses and shoving them quickly on my face)
The other tool of release from dogma came through a book I’ve spoken about many times: Jitterbug Perfume. If you want to read a book about *life*, that’s the book to read. Unstopping full-force throttle with no reverse – that’s the author’s approach to it. My stance on life was once again taken from a scripture that said that Jesus came so that we could have life, abundantly – and He didn’t mean “but only after the rapture” – He meant here and now.
So, with that scripture, and with “Jitterbug Perfume” in hand, I made a few important decisions. Starting with “I’m going to fucking well LIVE, damn it.” And I lost weight, started taking acting classes, and improvisation classes, going up on stage, going to Paris, skydiving.
Still, there are those out there who don’t realize that they have options too. I meet them all the time. Their common refrain is “oh I could never do that”. Or there’s the equally troubling “must be nice to be able to do all that you’re doing.”
There’s the knowledge that they’re often that way because of a lifetime of conditioning. I don’t know how to shake them out of it, and believe me, I’ve tried. Many times. Often, I’ve been exasperated, and in one case, ended up raising my voice a bit. Not proud of that last one, because all it did to serve was to push that person away.
It’s people like that who say they wish the Rapture had occurred this weekend, and that they’re now disappointed. Even though I have a life example to give them – my own – for them, it changes nothing.
I guess there’s wisdom sometimes in doing what you can, and then walking away.
Unless I’m missing something? Anything? If you have answers, I’d like to hear them, please. Or just share your own experience.