Ha! I was really planning on skipping this one. Take it from me: it's overrated. When it's dark and I'm feeling particularly broken and lost, I have no problem trusting that you will fail me, that God will leave me, that the other shoe will drop soon. Most likely on my head. causing grave physical and psychic pain. All the other trust stuff? I tried it once. It turned out badly. As I said. I think I'll skip this one.
Trouble is, I can't. Dammit.
First off, I made a commitment. Not that you would necessarily care, I but I did commit to Blogging Elul (please note the capital letters and the implied stentorian tone). It has come to be a fascinating discipline. Much as I'd prefer, based upon the topic, the day or the alignment of the planets, to defer, delay and desist-- I made a commitment.
The other reason is not quite so easy or straightforward. I came relatively late to my current level of observance and my mindful brand of Judaism. I skipped around a lot, a spiritual journey for the ADHD set. A God junky by thirteen, an apostate by fifteen and spiritually desperate and lost about a minute and a half later, I took to whatever bright and shiny thing caught my eye. Mostly, I denied my search, and settled for diving into a bottle.
It came as quite a shock to me that I went from believing in the pain and despair of nothing, to believing in miracles, all in the blink of an eye. Or at least, what seemed like it. In a blink, a heartbeat, a twisty, turny tortuous path, I got sober.
While I may have started, quite tenuously, to believe in miracles, on all the other stuff-- faith and hope and trust and God-- I was still a bit shell-shocked and resistant. I mean, really-- I had clear evidence (so it seemed to me) that faith was a sham, hope was a sordid and dirty mess, and trust merely a prolonged lesson in pain. I'll spare you that tale of my journey to (and in) sobriety (although please feel free to read them here, at Simple Stories and Anniversary).
Early on in my sobriety, when every day was a Herculean effort to fit, to be able to sit comfortably in my own skin, to not crawl back inside a bottle, to stop feeling so raw and exposed, I went to meetings. Lots of them. Sometimes one after the other, for hours at a time, until a morning, an evening, a major chunk of a day was gobbled in meetings, surrounded by other drunks all fighting to stay sober a minute, an hour, a day at a time.
It'a not that I don't go to meetings now, but they don't feel so desperate these days, so much a razor-thin dividing line between me and intimate dance with my fear and pain.
So there, at one of the eleventy-seven thousand meetings in early sobriety that I used to haunt, where my skin crawled and I felt ready to jump out of it, I heard a woman give a lead, the very end of which was a prayer: Please God, let me learn to be open, honest, trusting and vulnerable every day, a day at a time.
I may have stopped breathing at that exact moment. For certain, my head caught fire. Asking-- actually praying-- for those things. "What are you-- crazy?" Bad enough, to ask; worse to do so publicly. I wanted to shout, and jeer and pound the table with derision and condescension.
Instead, I wept.
For all that those particular traits terrified me, that somebody offered a prayer, simply, peacefully, hopefully, to a roomful of intimate strangers... God, I wanted that. I yearned for that, and I didn't even realize my longing, until that very instant. "God," I echoed, "please let me be these things, trusting, hopeful, vulnerable. Please."
I still echo those words, almost every day, in some iteration or other. More than 20 years later, they still have the power to take my breath away, fill me with wonder and make me weep. I still don't do them very well, though practicing is not quite the chore it once was. They're tough, though. My first thought is still, more often than I care to admit, to deflect, to hide, to keep the barriers at defcon five.
Every so often, light gets in. Every once in a while, the steady practice of my simple, borrowed prayer takes hold, and I find that I trust, that I open myself to God and the universe, that I allow myself to be vulnerable with dignity and strength. I allow myself to hope. Every so often, I remember that when I finally leap, in my faith and trust, I am caught. Every time.
And so today, 12 Elul, I offer this prayer: Dear God, please let me be honest, open, trusting and vulnerable today. Please let me leap, so that I can soar.