Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Seeing Through The Ring

We are fallible little beasties.

We misinterpret a lot and I believe we have for eons and many of us misinterpret the same things today that our ancestors and their ancestors misinterpreted, even without the benefit of new forms of communication which make miscommunication so much easier.

How many of us for example learned the first commandment this way:

'You shall have no other gods before Me.' ?

All you need to do is Google the ten commandments and you'll likely find a couple zillion places that list that as the first commandment.

It's a matter of interpretation I suppose...misinterpretation in my mind. Which leads me to this story I've been waiting to write...

His ring is silver and shiny. It is new, bought to commemorate a relationship. An anniversary gift to himself. An anniversary of death.

That's not what it really symbolizes to me but that's sort of how he explained it during one of our most recent breakfast conversations. He didn't really have an explanation since the act of buying the ring runs completely counter to the words and feelings he's been unleashing and unloading on me week after week...for more than a year.

The ring is new but the conversations are old. He tells me how he is doing better and then minutes later he's rehashing the same bitter memories. His now dead wife wronged him. The pain from her last actions has caused him to doubt the validity of their entire relationship. She died without seeming to care about him. Her depraved children from a previous marriage stepped all over his grief, robbed him of the opportunity to mourn and raped him of the good memories. The echoes of suffering which never seem to fade.

Oh! He is doing fine!

He always is for the first four or five minutes of our talks, but moments later the pain bubbles back to the top, no matter how I try to steer the conversation to any other topic. It's like watching your friend repeatedly rip the scab off a wound every time you start to notice a semblance of healing.

Every week he is over it...every week he reminds me about everything he is over.

Every week I wonder if he'll ever actually get over any of it.

I no longer try to rephrase my responses, find a new analogy to offer him counsel. I've tried everything I know, so now I only try to be certain I get the message in. I remind him how well he is doing, how much better he is than he was a year ago, how few real worries he has, that there's no telling what the future may hold, that he has to be open to seeing God's blessings.

These things are true. He's going to church, meeting new people, staying active. His health is good, his finances great...but his heart remains shattered.

Sometimes he will tear up as he tells me of his daily conversations with God. He prays every day for God to send him someone with whom to share his life. He trembles at the prospect of living the rest of his life alone.

During our most recent breakfast, he is fiddling with that new shiny ring on his right hand. A simple silver band with a cross.

It's an oddity really. He was never especially religious. He is Jewish, although in the 15 years I've known him he's never been a practicing Jew. His dead wife was Baptist.

Years ago, at least for a little while, they attended services together at a Messianic Temple. He drifted away from that until his wife was dying. Then he joined the Baptist church she began attending. When she started losing her battle for a grip on earth, he quickly lost faith in church.

He left the Baptist church when his wife died...telling me it was because of the memories.

Some months ago, he called me excitedly to say he was joining a Methodist church. I was happy for him, a little befuddled, but he had apparently found community. This week he told me he really joined because "they had a single's group." He also confessed he had stopped going to that church and started attending one of the giant churches in town...the Methodist's single's group was full of "old women."

Church or Temple has never really been anything but a "place" to him...a place where he at least wasn't alone, and he has been lonely. Yet despite not cultivating any relationships with women, he was cultivating a relationship with God...perhaps never inside any formal place of worship...but at night, crying aloud, begging God for a chance for happiness again.

I don't think he's realized that relationship, at least not fully. We pray together. I've learned to pray during our meals since he can tend to send up quite a prayer and let God in for what's usually my normal dose of 'unloading'...and my food gets cold.

There is much he doesn't understand. He wants God to tell him why his wife died and why she seemingly treated him so poorly after all their years together. He wants to know if his wife went to Heaven.

Like all of us he has questions for God which only God can answer.

Week after week, I've attempted to provide a steady force feeding of reminders that he should trust in God, look to the future, cherish the good memories, forgive, unburden himself of the past, dwell less on what he no longer has, and thank God more for all the blessings which surround him.

In all honesty, my menu for "moving on" has never seemed to satisfy his hunger. It's all I can offer, a recipe of hope.

He was better the last time we shared a meal. He was happy and I knew why because he had called me the night before and told me, sparing few details. He has found love again. A woman who 'gets' him, tolerates him, needs him but can be independent of him. Their relationship is moving very fast and today I learned they plan to marry in January.

I whole heartedly endorsed his relationship over that breakfast meeting, and his marriage plans during our phone call today. He's in his 60's, life is too short and can end too soon. Take a chance, cover your bases but reach for it all. It's out there, but you have to reach for it.

As we scarfed down our food that day I barely had the chance to speak as he told me all about this new woman in his life, how perfect she is, how much better he is...and finally I saw that he understood how time yields perspective.

It was then he showed me the ring. It was an odd transition. From a new love to a dead love to a new ring marking an anniversary of death. I understood it. I'm not sure he did. I'm still not sure he does.

As we talked today and he told me of his wedding plans, he said he barely thinks of 'her' - his dead wife - at all these days. Well, maybe once in a while, but he doesn't tear up...much. He's not angry...or at least as angry.

I mentioned to him quietly that even when he puts a new ring on his hand in a few months and on the hand of his new bride, he should still wear that other 'new' ring on his other hand as he does now.

I'm not sure he understood why. I'm not sure he will. We misinterpret so many things.

Yes, his wife died and it was a terrible death and the circumstances that followed were evil in how he was haunted by the final memories.

Yet that ring...that ring is a testament to a relationship that ended AND a relationship that is really unexplored and unlimited. Not the relationship with his soon to be wife. His relationship with his Creator.

There are blessings all around us. All of us. Everyday.

How we look at the world, head up or head down, dictates how or whether we see them.

My friend is amazingly blessed. He's realizing that now. I hope as his relationship grows with his new wife, he won't misinterpret the first commandment.

"I am the LORD your God
You shall have no other gods before Me."

That's the way I interpret the first commandment. It doesn't begin with"You shall " It begins with, "I am the LORD your God"

Maybe He should have been more clear, "l am your loving God. I created you. Nice to meet you, I want a relationship with you, Please don't ever overlook the very first words I spoke to you. I want this relationship to last for all eternity. Stick with Me won't you? You'll be amazed at the blessings you'll see when you do."

That's a lot to fit on a tablet I suppose.