I woke up at about 3 this morning with stuff on my mind. I fought with it for about half and hour, then got up and paced around for a while. Finally, at about 4, I started to write in a beautiful journal that Doug bought me for my birthday this year, just for this purpose. I decided then to type it out here verbatim because I believe that my thinking was as clear then as it will be for a bit on the topic. Clarity is often a middle-of-the-night thing with me, and if I don’t write it down in the moment, the edge seems to disappear. So you shall have it verbatim, grammatical glitches, word mix-ups and all. Enjoy. Or not.
It’s 4 am. Maybe not the middle of the night for some, but it is for me. I woke up about an hour ago and since then my mind has been churning. Write it down, dummy, and then maybe you can go back to sleep.
It’s all about identity, you see. Sure, I have to wrestle with the meaning of my new labels, “healthy 67-year-old” and “retiree.” But they are only labels, the content of which I get to discover and shape. The advantage I have going for me is that my ultimate identity isn’t bound up in those labels. Who I am is defined by my faith.
Now I don’t pretend to understand the depths of Christian theology. I’ve only been a Christian since 1990 after all. But in those 30-some years, I have learned what it means to me to be a Christian. For now, and for recognizing who I am, there are three important dimensions of my faith for my current quest.
The first is that I’m not alone on the journey. I have, course, the love and strength and support that comes from my family and friends, but believe me, as important as those things are, they pale in comparison with the love and strength and support I find in my relationship with Jesus. He walks with me always. Christians aren’t promised an easy ride. No where in the Bible does it say we won’t have trouble. In fact, being a Christian causes its own problems — defending unpopular causes, standing against the prevailing culture, sometimes doing the opposite of those things like leading the charge for social justice and social change. Some of those problems can even lead to death! But what I do have is the freedom to express and live my faith without fear, and this is the really important part, no matter what I go through, what I have to confront on a day-to-day basis, I will always do so with Christ at my side. And that means, quite simply, that I can deal with anything life throws at me. I may not do so easily or with style or even very well, but I will be able to deal with stuff because I know Jesus has my back.
[ASIDE: When I get dizzy and fall down, I usually can’t get up right away. When I am able to sit, Doug will stand behind me so I can lean on his legs until the world stops spinning. I can always count on him to be there to support me. He quite literally “has my back.” So it is in my walk with Christ.]
The second dimension of my faith that helps in the current journey (or is it “journeys” plural?) is that I am sure about my ultimate future. No matter what I accomplish or fail to accomplish here on earth, my final destination is the place called Heaven. I have absolutely no idea what that will look like or when it will happen, but I have total confidence that that’s where I’m going to end up. I don’t mean to sound arrogant about it. I believe that I’m as great a sinner as anyone on this earth, but I also believe that I am forgiven. This doesn’t make getting there any easier, but there is a certainty about the end that takes away at least some of the fear along the way. For me at least, I know that if I continue to love and serve God, to love and serve others, living justly and striving to be the best Gail I can be, my earthly journey will have meaning. That’s all I can do. Knowing that there is a life after death, what it may be, means that dying is really just another life stage. As is my current dilemma about who I am.
Which brings me nicely to the third dimension of my faith that matters here. Who I am is also settled by what I believe. I am a child of God, made in his image. Sure I am a wife, sister, aunt, friend, teacher, mentor, and lots of other things. But my true identity is as a child of God. Knowing that provides a context for the task of defining and framing and living these new “identities” as that retired healthy 67-year-old. It assures me that I am more than all the labels I can attach to myself, or have attached to myself by others. It means that I can explore all these roles in life without fear of failing. It is incredibly freeing!
And now, with all this out of my head, perhaps I can go back to sleep. I will type it out verbatim in the morning. Oh, wait. It is morning. But I mean in the normal, sensible morning, If I tried to type it now, the spell-checker would have a blast. Perhaps I’ll scan a page to show you what I mean. I’m now writing with one eye closed.
Good night, or good morning or whatever. I’m going back to bed.
So that’s what I wrote. And it doesn’t look all that bad. Now my hand it killing me, so good noon!