Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I Don't Care

It is the early morning hour before sunrise.  It is dark.  I am awake in my bed.  No alarm wakes me; I’ve reached the perfect amount of rest.  My mind wakes but my eyes stay closed, and all I see is darkness.
I thought of the gathering of friends last night over dinner.  The conversation covered things we shared in common, and things of a personal concern.  And we asked each other to pray about those personal concerns --- and so they became OUR concerns.  And it all seemed right.  And we touched on the Gospel of the rich man and what he couldn’t give up, and perhaps it was that parable which led us to talk about the money that we had given up, unwillingly.  Looking back, it was obvious the losses we spoke of concerned us very much, and we could not let them go.  We, who are rich in so many ways, couldn’t forget money.
In the dark of my bedroom I thought of the Parable of the Rich Man.  His money symbolizes all our cares in this world, all the things we prize, that we would never consider giving up.  We all have something like that.  The Prayer For Humility I pray asks that I give up many personal, very difficult things for me to give up; they are things that drive the ego, things that make me feel important.  And I pray that I can give them up.
But money, money is the catchall of all desires.  “Money buys anything.”  We have this learned desire for money, and our hearts think that no matter how bad things get, “If I have money, well, money can buy happiness.”  And that’s why we spoke of our loss of money last night.  Even as we also spoke of our many givings of time and talent (and money) to charities, still, we acutely remembered the loss of money.  It was somehow important, this loss of money we readily admitted that we didn’t even need.
And the darkness seemed to deepen in my bedroom, as I thought:  That’s it!  That’s the point of the Parable of the Rich Man.  That’s what Jesus is asking the rich man to give up.  It’s not the money; it’s the attitude about money which we can’t give up.  The rich man was honest and walked away.  If he gave up HIS money, he would always regret it.  “Money can get me anything I want.”
What Jesus was saying is: “I am everything you want.”  What Jesus asked of the rich man is what He asked of Peter: “Do you love Me?”  What Jesus was asking them is the heart of the Gospels.  Can you give up all YOU want and say “I don’t care” to it, and not regret the loss?  Can you love Him; can you trust Him, as He trusted His Father?
Can we say: “I don’t care”?
Those words, “I don’t care,” seemed to deepen my feelings of quiet and darkness, and aloneness.  My heart felt heavy.  I thought briefly of the soldier with the PTSD contemplating suicide.  Was this how he felt?  But no, his darkness was not a giving up of caring, but the ultimate opposite:  He cares about horrible things so much that he could never stop thinking of them, never stop caring about them, and realizing that for all his caring, he could do nothing about it.
In the darkness I suddenly recalled His words: I am the Light.  And I perceived light in my darkness.  I’ve walked in absolute darkness on a Texas starless night, far from the city lights, when I couldn’t see the hand in front of my face.  And I’ve read about the effects of light, and how in a perfect darkness the human eye could see a candle from miles away.  And in my mind’s eye, this night I saw that candle.
I think it is good that these thoughts came to me.  I write them in hopes of remembering the lesson.  And as I sit on my sofa and write, I hear the birds chirping outside my living room window.  And I recall:  “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
So many things concern us in life, and that is good.  Teresa of Calcutta, Joan of Arc and Jesus all had great concerns, and sometimes they too felt a great darkness.  Darkness itself is not a bad thing; because of it we can better see the Light.
I think sometimes all we need to do is put aside our concerns about the darkness we perceive, and open our eyes to see the Light.  And then we can see a new day dawning.


  1. Tom-
    Great reflections. Very thought provoking.

    By the time I was born my parents were doing okay financially. I was the fifth child, but my dad had a pretty good job, and they were able to afford our home and support of us.

    I had a generally carefree childhood. We had everything we needed, and some things we wanted. I learned well the word "no" when it came to wanting things. I often did not get what I wanted. I learned to make do with what I was given, and to curb my desire for everything I saw. That gave me a certain freedom. My parents provided for me. I did not live in desperate want. I learned to make a distinction between what I needed and what I wanted, and be careful with my selections of what I wanted. As I grew up, I came to see that God provided for me too - the bright sunshine, the fresh air, green grass, the fruits of the vine and the animals of the earth; the rain, and snow and all the things of nature. What I mean is I saw God's bounty - His provision for human life, in fact, for all life on earth. Man had to work to harvest that bounty, but if he did, he could survive and live. But God provides the substance in abundance.

    Our societies organize the work of the harvest into tasks (jobs) that allow me to not have to provide for myself directly from nature, but work as part of a group to get what I need to live. So it becomes a question of how much do I need and how much do I WANT? If the answer is "a lot", why?

    Money and possessions are funny things. Instead of just being a measure of a stored up work, and to ease our lives, in many people's minds they are status symbols, a short hand representation of our very selves, an indication of our value compared to other people. If you have $100 and I have $10,000, the thinking goes, I am better than you, since presumably it is those more able, more competent, more intelligent who find ways to gather more than those who are lesser. If you adhere to this kind of thinking, money and possessions become a shorthand criteria to determine where someone stands in the pecking order of worldly power and status.

    But that measure isn't necessarily valid. Because sometimes someone has much money and power but got it because he is a robber. Or a con artist. Or has friends in powerful positions that give him opportunities not given to others. Or he inherited it. Or he was just at the right place at the right time. Children have no money at all, but they are immensely valuable.

    Attachment to money runs very deep, especially if it is a lifelong habit of stroking our own egos, and reassure us of our worth. Is the loss of money, even if one could afford it, a blow to the ego, to the idea of one's status and power?

    Jesus had no money. No position of authority. No status. No worldly indications of His status. He rose above those indications, knowing each of us is valued and immensely valuable in and of themselves in the eyes of One Who created all things. He took scorn from those who live by worldly measures, because He didn't have the symbols to prove He was powerful. He was dismissed as a nothing by those in power. He defied them.

    Do you know the personal history of Caiaphas, or Pilate? How about Caiaphas' chief assistant, or Pilate's lieutenant? We probably would know nothing of Caiaphas or Pilate either except because of their connection to the story of Jesus. But at the time they called the shots, they were at the top of the pecking order in that locale.

    Do you know the personal history of Jesus? Interesting, isn't it? The guy without a cent in the world, without a scholarly degree, the itinerant preacher, is known, the others all but forgotten. So, what's the measure of us?
    Take care, Tom. ~ Fran

  2. Your life was much as mine, Fran. And I think we've both learned a lot, slowly, in our growing in faith. I just finished reading another of Jean Vanier's books: Man and Woman God Made Them. Vanier is the one who founded the l'Arche communities around the world for the developmentally disabled. I visited the Cleveland community last week, to benchmark how they are caring vs how my organization cares for DD people. Vanier notes that the disabled have "a special capacity to touch hearts and to give live." I've noticed that in my dealings with our residents. These who much of society says aren't succeeding, know so much more about loving than most others. Who is succeeding, I wonder?