There Is No Shadow Of Turning
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” ~James 1:17
“What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling. For these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.” ~C.S. Lewis
“Don’t be worried on account of the wicked; don’t be jealous of those who do wrong. They will soon disappear like grass that dries up; they will die like plants that wither. Trust in the Lord and do good; live in the land and be safe. Seek your happiness in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desire. Give yourself to the Lord; trust in him, and he will help you; he will make your righteousness shine like the noonday sun. Be patient and wait for the Lord to act; don’t be worried about those who prosper or those who succeed in their evil plans. Don’t give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble.” ~Psalm 37:1-8
“…I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” ~Luke 11:9-13
Well, it’s been an interesting few weeks to be sure. After a very busy post-camp season, a trip to Virgina to see Chief Tim, a visit to The Jewett’s, and other general comings and goings, my wife and I were finally getting geared up for our annual trip to what I refer to as my “happy place” – Santa Barbara/Carpinteria, CA. Alack and alas but that trip never occurred. As Janna and I were packing for the trip on Wednesday the 3rd and beginning to get excited to fly out early the next morning, I suddenly realized that perhaps the overwhelming pain that was clenching my gut all afternoon might be more than just bad gas.
However, being a man I wanted to put off calling any professional medical type person until as late as possible. I still had my favorite trip of the year to go on! Be that as it may, around 11:00 pm, after a call to a nurse for some advice, and long past time to be asleep dreaming of the next few days full of sand, surf, sunshine and mountain adventures, I found myself lying in a less than comfy ER bed, barely clothed in the standard issue butt-less chap style hospital gown, pumped full of morphine and awaiting the final diagnosis of my abdominal woes. Within 30 minutes of a CT scan and some blood tests, a very young and kind looking female doctor entered the room and said, “Hi Luke! My name is Dr. Choi, and I’m your surgeon.” Dangit. Acute appendicitis. Dr. Choi explained it as, “Your appendix is very angry, so we need to take it out.” Although very well drugged at the time I do recall asking her what the odds are that I’d be able to get on a plane at 7:10 this morning. (By this time it was now about 2am.) She chuckled and said, “Well…no, you’re not going to be able to do that. I’m sorry, but hey! At least you’ll be alive!” Thanks doc. About 45 minutes later I was being prepped for surgery, and within another hour I was waking up with a dry mouth and no recollection of the past hour and a half nor the loss of the seemingly useless pseudo-organ that had just been harvested from me.
Long story short, I stayed in the hospital for less than 24 hours and they released me to the confines of my home, sweet home, and the care of my loving wife, along with a couple of bottles of some very nice and very strong pain killers. Needless to say, this was not the type of vacation and recovery that I had been planning. While it has it’s high points…right…West Indianapolis is in no ways similar to the West Coast and the salty Pacific. Although I was rather downcast at the time, my wife and folks helped me to see the obvious blessing in the whole situation – that this had occurred before I had gotten aboard the plane and out to warm Southern California. Good point, and begrudgingly I accepted the truth of it. I still don’t like it, as it seems more like rather bad timing to me, but “c’est la vie” I suppose. Oh, and I was told by the doctor that I needed to “be sure to try and pass gas as much as possible.” Due to the CO2 gas they pumped my abdominal cavity full of for the procedure I was given a prescription to pass gass… Brilliant! Things are looking up!
“There Is No Shadow Of Turning” probably seems like a very odd title for this blogpost I suppose, especially given this story. In truth it doesn’t make any sense with just the story itself. I wanted to share that little gem to illustrate what started off about two weeks of being depressed, or in a “funk”, (insert “selfish pouting” here…) as I like to call it. The appendicitis and missing my favorite vacation of the year were really just the last straw for me in a series of frustrating things. The near two weeks of recovery were good on one hand as they gave me time to just be still and quiet. Much has transpired in the last month, two months, well, the last year I suppose. Life can sometimes have a “swishifying effect”, as Moe the Bartender from the Simpson’s would say. It’s really amazing how many things can happen and how much a person can get swept up in the busyness of life to even really take stock of all that’s happened, happening, or may happen in the future. During my silent retreat of forced recovery I found myself doing that very thing and taking stock of the past year. It was a good time to grieve and rejoice, give thanks and finally to be really angry and then just depressed.
I think ultimately what had me so depressed is thinking about the sad state that the Church finds itself in, coupled with what I see, hear, and read on a daily basis about our world and it’s slow downward spin. This mixed with my own stuff made me question where I am and where I’m going – basically it was the “what are you doing with your life?” conversation that I think most of us have at various points along the path. I have to confess that sometimes I get overwhelmed when I think about this and about the evil and darkness that seems to persist despite my own best efforts to bring light, as my namesake implies. And now, when that darkness spreads into the Church (as it has in the past) it makes the dark seem even darker and hope seems bleak. And then it hits me…I’ve arrived. Yeah, I’ve ended up precisely where the Enemy desired me to be and prodded me towards. I’m sad, depressed, overwhelmed, isolated, and losing hope, looking for some way to shut off the pain around and within me and grasping at any little thing to numb out from the banal, hedonistic, selfish and greed filled world pushing in on me. Looking for something…something…something. But not Someone. Someone? No, “He’s too far away. He doesn’t care, obviously! He turns a blind eye! He cares nothing for the woes of man. It’s all dark and fading and He will do nothing to stop it. And you are powerless to change anything.”
And that’s the best tool I think the Enemy has in his bag of tricks. If we can be convinced that there is no hope then we can be deceived into believing that faith and love can do nothing. And then we begin to despair and cease to care about anyone or anything around us and ultimately we become indifferent. And that is the Enemy’s goal – not to make us hate God, but to be indifferent to Him and to those around us. Truly, “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” [Elie Wiesel]
This life is fading away. Like the scriptures say, we are like grass. We are but ashes and dust and things do seem bleak. But I do see love breaking through here and there. And because I see it in my wife, my friends, my family, in Liturgy or at Vespers, at camp, at work amongst strangers, in my niece and nephew and in my Godchildren, in the changing of the leaves when the Earth sighs after a long Summer, and in the beauty of a rainy day – then I begin to hope. The Imprint is still there, and even if these are the Shadowlands there is still Light coming from Somewhere where shadows exist not. What matters really is Faith, Hope, and Love as the Apostle said. And like the scriptures say above, when all else seems bleak, and when I’ve run all the usual routes to numb out and avoid God, when I’m at my wits end and asking why he seems to have abandoned us to the Dark, finally, when I’m quiet enough to listen I hear him speaking – because He will never give me a stone when I ask for bread and always gives to those who ask. The instant I turn back He’s right there where he’s been all along. And then I begin to understand – because of Love He doesn’t answer my selfish rage and anger. Because of Love He doesn’t make me choose Him over myself and my own pleasure. Because of Love He is silent because He has already answered in that one final act. It is finished. The world will continue to speed out of control and slide further into the abyss, but there is hope and happiness because of the Resurrection.
I don’t know – this may seem obvious to most, but these past couple of weeks it seemed impossible to grasp for me. I fell right into the trap that was laid for me and while I’m pouting and banging my head against the wall demanding that God answer me, He does, but not in the way I wanted. This time, as in other times, it was through Bill Mallonee – almost as if He is saying, “Well, since you can’t hear me right now, hear this guy who is speaking about me.” I just “happened” to come across this song I’d forgotten about while sitting on my comfy couch despairing about all of this.
Pearl of great price, pearl of great price…the billboards they’re all lies. The world will search and substitute for what never satisfies. There is no shadow of turning with Thee when the waves of my sin come rolling over me. Grow ye never weary, grow ye never weary of doing all the good you wanna do; keep your hands unto the plow and He will see you through.” ~Bill Mallonee
Sometimes all I need is a reminder. Just a little splash of light in the dark and I can see my way forward again. I’m sure this is no earth shattering revelation for many, but when you forget and lose your way, I find it’s often the simplest things that lead you back. I will keep my hand to the plow and push on in love, and with faith and hope that one day I will no longer “see in a mirror dimly, but face to face.”
So today, I’m thankful for Bill. I’m thankful for light. I’m thankful for rain. And I’m thankful for all those that have gone before and left little reminders along the way – that things are not as grim as the Evil One would like to make them out to be. Most of all I’m thankful for the mercy, grace, and love that is offered me and that there is no shadow of turning – even when I do. Thank God for that.