A Moment of Clarity (Finding self-acceptance through others.)
Out of the blue, John messaged me. I had not heard from him in over nine years. He was an old friend or maybe better said, an old acquaintance. I had known him from a time that was very much part of my past. A past that included a faith system that was the largest in the world. One where Christ was the center and so many people searched for him in all that they did, dragging their humanity along the way. Which, inevitably for many, sabotaged their efforts to be free and loved. John was still a part of that faith. He was still someone who identified with being Christian and in my estimate, was someone that was still the same. Still self-serving, and naïve about how the world really worked.
His text said that I had been on his mind and he wanted to see me. I am not sure why. It had been nine years since I had spoken to him. Perhaps it was his recent trip to Family Camp. An event organized by the Christian non-profit that we both worked for, many years ago. Perhaps there was something else. Whatever it was, from the man I used to know, I was pretty sure, that the meeting was for his needs.
“Sure”, I said, “That would be great! I would love to catch up.” I didn’t mean it. However, because my work is in service of the public, I find the best practice is to accept invitations. The truth is, I really didn’t want to see him.
He suggested that we meet at a sushi restaurant. I thought, well, at least I will enjoy the food. I said, “Great!” before seeing where the restaurant is located. Checking the internet, I saw that it was on the other side of town. I grumbled under my breath, saying. “Typical John, always for his convenience, not anyone else.” But I had agreed to the place and I work hard at being a man of my word. Furthermore, I did not know his situation. I knew that he had kids and he may need to stay close to home to help his wife. So off I went. Driving in traffic across town to see this man that I was not close to and had not seen in a very long time.
I arrived first and texted him, “I’m here”. He texted back “Great! Can you grab the table in the back near the corner? It’s my favorite.”
I did, grumbling more as this again is typical of the John I used to know. Always getting others to do his bidding. I sat at the table he wanted and waited for him.
The young waitress came over to the table and asked me if I would like anything to drink. “I am waiting for a friend,” I said, “and yes, tea would be nice” “Okay”, she said, “I will bring the teas.” I realized she thought I had ordered for the both of us. I didn’t but I did not mention it. She brought the teas and I simply thanked her. Generosity is also something that I try to practice, even when I do not feel like it.
A few minutes later he walked in. He had clearly aged. He had a shabby beard and long hair. Which was wet, probably from a recent shower. “Hey John, how are you!? Good to see you!”, I said. He reached out to hug me. I hugged him back. In between us, his wet hair pressed into my shoulder. I could feel the moisture soaking through my shirt. This was also annoying but I didn’t say anything. We sat down and I asked him if he wanted the tea? He did.
After our greeting, I could feel my resignation begin to leave me. John had clearly been up to things and was exuberant about life. It was intriguing and quite frankly, missing in my own. Perhaps I had judged him too harshly.
I settled in to hear what he had to say. I relish a good story and he was clearly about to embark on one.
He talked about his family, his career, his move to Florida, working for Campus Crusade for Christ as well as their sister company as a film producer. He talked about his little girl getting Leukemia, the battle that had ensued and the celebration his whole family shared in as it was eradicated from her body; His trips to Israel, coming from Family camp and the challenging disagreements with the leaders. The key points were interesting and also moving to some extent but mostly it was the way he told his story. I could hear amazing freedom and grace coming from within him.
Listening is inherently crucial to my profession. The key is to see someone as they truly are. This requires getting out of their way. The more I really listen, the less of myself I am listening to. No need for an agenda, my own pride or expectations. When people experience this, they are inclined to share more, until their story starts pouring out of them. In addition, I provide safe honest advocacy for their intention. This reflects back on them what they want to believe about themselves. Usually, that they are good, worthy of a voice and the expression of who they are. I help guide them to be as honest as possible in this process. People often get excited with this collaboration as it means a lot to them to be heard like this. They then have the enthusiasm and courage to make the changes that bring the person they now understand themselves to be, forward and more prevalent in the world. Working with others in this fashion has been one of the best rewards of my life.
On the other hand, there are many people that, try as I might, do not hear. They do not understand and do not become realized. They are a long way off from ever really coming to peace and love in their hearts. The listening I do for them becomes difficult. I will try to find the place where they are whole perfect and complete. I will continue to comment and question to open them up to their self-love so they can see as well. Some see a glimpse and still others do not see anything at all. For they are often attached to the immediate situation and lost in the battle for their dignity and self-esteem. This becomes heavy and difficult to stay in this space with them. For the conversation is no longer a resonance of synergy. It is simply a spiral into the darker energies of their soul, as they struggle against fear, anguish, and shame.
To my delight, John was not in this way at all. In his younger days, yes. He was difficult to be around as my listening served the fear, he had about who he was not. He had been attached to the unworthiness he felt with his father. Regardless of the questions or comments, he would circle back to the dilemma from the identity that created it, in an endless cycle he could not escape. Now, he was clearly free and self-aware of his worth. Free in the midst of the struggle we all face and a joy to be with.
He was committed to loving the spirit of the lord beyond his own understanding. He was not impressed with dogma or the people who found security in the rituals of religion. He was very much full of love for the mystery of God and the benevolence of grace that when we are able to let go, is available to us all.
In my own experiences of this grace, it is astounding, overwhelming…beyond comprehension. There is more acceptance and love than one can imagine. One’s cup truly does runneth over.
Clearly somewhere along the way, John had gotten out of his own way and had witnessed grace to this level. I was not sure how but it was obvious to me that he was a man that was realized and content. His quest for truth had paid off. His growth into an excellent human, free of the attachments of his life was not someday but here, right now. At least for this moment…. Moment by moment. As we both knew was as close as a human being can come.
The more he spoke the more I supported his language, to continue his realization. In this, he knew that I knew. He had an advocate for his intention. He loved the honesty of letting go of his dad. He spoke of his struggles and his intention to purely be with God, open and vulnerable with everything he had ever done or had been. Admitting to his limitations, his misguided actions and what was his ultimate quest… to feel deeply, the incredible intimacy of God. To be whole perfect and complete as he is, without end; to feel the joy of life and living to the depths of his soul.
As he spoke, I felt it too. In this conversation, we were both delighted that we were not alone in this venture. I was not losing energy to another who did not know themselves. I was gaining energy from someone who did know. He had worked through his life and had the courage to continue to let go and love deeply.
After John had finished with what he wanted to share, we sat for a few moments, looking at each other, both happy that we had a brother in the journey. He then, with some hesitation, asked me to pray with him. I said, “Yes”. I reached across the table and put both of my hands in his and he began to pray. I listened with an open heart. I don’t remember the words but there was an amazing energy in our hands. After the prayer, John commented about the energy. I said, “Yes, I could feel it too.” It was remarkable. We sat for a moment gathering the experience, However, the details of our lives began seeping back into our minds. He had to get back to his family and I had a business to run. The moment of deep connection had passed. It was time to go. I hugged him and said goodbye.
When I left, I drove in silence. Pondering my own life and the trappings of upset that was more common than I cared for. Thinking about my brief time with John and the liberating feeling of full self-acceptance with a friend, I began making plans to find more of my own serenity. And as I did, I drove along. The traffic was bad but I began to see, through all our efforts, everyone else was the same as me, just trying to make their own way home.