How My Gethsemane Grows

The Banquet - Rene Magritte

The Banquet by Rene Magritte

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Like Jesus, in the agony of his crucifixion, I cried out from my darkness and despair “Why, Lord?  Why?”

“Why,” I’ve found, is not a spiritual question, nor is it one God often answers.  This time was an exception.  God responded, and resoundingly.  His reply was a simple one…
“Why do you think I brought Amelia into your life?”  What He asked was a rhetorical question and one I knew the answer to immediately.

Amelia, I had met three months prior (see Rolled Under Your Wave).  We nearly ran into one another coming around a corner.  I was taken by her and she by me. The chemistry was instantaneous and it was mutual.  She was as close as I’ve come to meeting another Sofíe (my ex girlfriend in Spain who is the measuring stick for all other women I meet).  Her vibe was identical.  She was younger and, like Sof, she liked older men.  At least, she liked me.  I learned later she was engaged and to a great guy.  Amelia has good taste.  Her fiancé has excellent taste as Amelia is magnificent.  That should tell you something about Sof as she too is magnificent.

Meeting Amelia told me a few things…

  1.  Sof is not the only magnificent woman on the planet for if there are two, there must be more
  2.  There is as magnificent a woman as Sof who also likes older men, as Amelia is in her twenties while I’m in my forties and I prefer younger women and
  3.  This woman is healthy enough to not like an asshole.

Amelia’s fiancé is not an asshole.  I met him.  He was solid.  I definitely used to be but am no longer the asshole I once was.  Today,  I am a catch, and a healthy one at that.  And I find only healthy women are able to appreciate me long term.  I put growth above all else.  Healthy people tend to do the same.

That could have been the end of my conversation with God.  It wasn’t because  I wasn’t done…neither was God.

“Okay, so maybe there are other magnificent women” I acknowledged, “what about this past year?  Nothing.  Couldn’t I at least have had a relationship with a not-so-magnificent woman while I waited for a magnificent one?”

“Do you remember where you were a year ago?” God asked.

I did.  I remembered exactly where I was.  I was in the same place I had always been.  I was terrified of commitment.  Since childhood and into my forties I had been allergic to relationships.  No woman in her right mind, I reasoned, would want to be with me (see “Naked” for more on this).  She might think she would but she wouldn’t and I knew that because I knew better.  I knew what she didn’t.  I knew that I was unlovable, and any woman, once discovering this, would leave me and I would be left alone again.  So, why bother?  I learned in the course of that year my understanding of myself, love and the women who valued me was much mistaken.  I learned, as G.K. Chesterton claimed, “to love means loving the unlovable”.

God continued:  “And now where are you?”

Not long before this conversation, in a matter entirely unrelated to Sof, I had written a piece “He, Not Absolute Me.”  It was the antithesis of my earlier piece “Shattered“.  It was the opposite of unworthy.  It was reward.  In the course of just over a year, I had gone from self demeaning and self belittling to self appreciating and self loving.  I had moved from seeing in me vacancy to now seeing in me value.  Such is God’s handiwork when I apply myself and when I run to rather than away from my own demons.  As my old sponsor used to encourage me while I was in the middle of my first fourth step, “Peter, run toward the bullets.”  I haven’t forgotten.

“Do you really think you could have gotten here from there had you had a woman, even a non-committed-relationship having woman?  Do you think you could have come to the point of proposal?” God pressed.

Yes, I was ready to propose to Sof.  It was a process.  It began with when I had written “What I Will Do” (which had more to do with commitment than marriage), and culminated with a phone call to my friend Scot.  He asked “have you bought a ring?”  Until that moment, until he had asked his question, I had conveniently embraced the naive notion that a woman would consider “hanging out” with me for the rest of my life.  It wasn’t until he laughed and said “um…yeah…that’s marriage, Peter.  Women don’t ‘hang out for forever’.  That’s what guys want.  Women want a ring.  It’s called marriage.”
Unwilling to relent (such is the depth my self will and stupidity) I carried on with my query of the Almighty however, “Ok, what about getting laid?  Couldn’t I at least have had some mutually encouraging, mutually satisfying sex?”  While there had been a few opportunities, they dried up prior to consummation.
God’s answer was forthwith.  “And then what, Pete?  Have you ever been a man to love and leave a woman, to have sex and move on as though it hadn’t happened?  Remember the inspiration for “My Love” (another of my pieces)?  Remember how you fell for her?  Beautiful girl, though very damaged, my frightened child with great potential but unhealthy all the same?  You slept with her and you were spun.  And that lasted how long?  Months.  Could you have grown to where you are had it been for those months, months you would have dedicated to overcoming someone who couldn’t love themselves, to someone who could, someone like Sof or someone like Amelia?”

Ouch.  It’s not often God answers and it’s less often He says so much when He does.  Usually, He’ll say things like “wait”, “trust”, “rely”, “I have something better” or “I love you” (He says that often.  Sometimes I believe Him).

After hearing God’s latest explanation, I conceded His points.  He had me cold. I was done.

God wasn’t.

He continued, “Anything else?  Any more questions you’d like to ask?  Any other issues you’d like to discuss when it comes to how I care and provide for you?”

If you’ve seen the Karate Kid, you’ll understand my response.  In it, Daniel is  interested in learning karate.  He asks his elderly neighbor, a master of karate, Mr. Miyagi, to teach him.  Mr. Miyagi agrees and promptly puts Daniel to work with specific instructions on how to “sand the floor”, “paint the fence” and “wax on, wax off” his yard full of antique cars.  Daniel, thinking this is payment for the help with karate, agrees.  Soon, however, Daniel feels overwhelmed by the work and believes he’s being taken advantage of.  He becomes angry and indignant.  He accuses his instructor of welching on their deal for the benefit of slave labor.  Mr. Miyagi instructs Daniel to show him the motion for “paint the fence.”  When he does, Mr. Miyagi throws a punch and Daniel blocks it with the very same motion he used to paint the fence.  Mr. Miyagi’s motive is revealed.  Unbeknownst to Daniel, those four days and countless hours of painful labor spent sanding floors, painting fences and polishing cars were actually hours spent in training for karate, perfecting his skills.

What could I say?  Like Daniel, I too was at a loss for words.  Some things there’s no coming back from.  God’s rebuke, like Mr. Miyagi’s, was one of them.  All my questions, about love, about Sof, about life or my past, my present, my future, all of them, were answered.

I suspect Jesus got the answer to his agonizing question on the cross the night he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.  I know the night I got the answer to mine.