A few days ago, someone described me as being “rigid.” I know that it was meant (in a disguised way) to offend me. To put me in my place. There were other descriptions made at that time, others that made me ponder and wonder why someone would use that specific descriptive, a descriptive that held accuracy while the accuser expressed no understanding in why I was that way.
But the term, rigid, has held my attention over the time that it was uttered.
It has, in its own quiet way, changed the way that I look upon myself. A nice change. A most positive change.
My reaction to being described as rigid, was: and what, exactly, would a flexible mystic look like to you?
I thought about Saint Francis of Assisi responding to his father’s denouncing of Francis’s choice to join the church, condemning his abilities by accusing him of having everything he had out of the goodness of the father’s heart, and Francis’s response: to strip off all his clothing, turn his back on his father, and walk naked to his new home.
The act, at this time of reflection on the matter of rigidity, brings me to laughter.
And I thought about how despised Mother Teresa became in her ministry, how many people raised their fists against her. Why? Because she would not respond positively to their suggestions on how to run her ministry.
No. Instead. She stayed true to her visions. She fed people. She washed people. She gave them a place to sleep. And she held their hand as they slipped into death.
Dignity. She gave them dignity.
That was her mission. And she never wavered from it.
Absolutely rigid until she, herself, drew her last breath.
But the more I thought about how the term applied to me, the more laughter filled the space around me.
I finally realized that to call me rigid was like calling Mother Teresa a nice, little old lady: so woefully inadequate that it is most amusing.
I’m not rigid.
I’m a rock.
I don’t remember if I have written about this before, but when I was a child, I cried myself to sleep every night because I felt that I failed at honoring my mother and father.
I even had visions that reassured me that my intent was there and it was true, and that was what mattered.
I never listened to those visions. I continued to condemn myself.
I never listened to God about who I was. And I was just a child at the time.
It wasn’t until I had children of my own and that looked out in the world and realized that honoring one’s parents is a very complex matter. That children need to bump up against who their parents are so that they can come to terms with who they are themselves.
That being aware of my difference from the other members of my family did not equal not honoring them.
But then I kept thinking about it all.
My life. My desire to grow and be just like John the Baptist, probably the least flexible human being that has ever lived. Yeah, I thought, just go ahead and suggest to John how you think he should change his outlook on life, and see how he responds.
It was when I was in my early twenties, and I allowed the visions to “come back” (not that they had really ever gone anywhere except to where I was unconscious of them), that I first became aware of my true nature: the mystic with the bull’s head.
Before I had walked away from my visions, I had just accepted them, like a conversation with an old and dear friend, something that I found infinitely interesting and a reason to wake up every morning radiantly joyous.
But after my “normalcy” break, somehow I had grown in ways. Perhaps it was just the few years of growth itself. Who knows.
But now, instead of a grassy hillside underneath a tree, I lived in Berkeley, California. I had honed out, in a way, the shape of my mind.
I had no clue about my will, though.
And there it was. Other people who I had read about having deeply personal experiences of God came across as such sweet, open people. Wide open.
It was as though God and I were in a cosmic, universal boxing ring. He on his side. I on mine.
And every vision became a head-on collision between the two of us. Every concept that was given me was ripped to shreds, pulled apart unceremoniously, and stomped on until it revealed its true nature.
I always had in my mind what I absolutely knew to be the meat of the matter.
I was always, never varyingly, wrong.
God was always, never varyingly, right.
Thanks to time, this whole contentiousness went from being a challenge to being a reassurance.
I could trust God. Maybe not always in the way I wanted to trust him, but he was, always, in the end, right.
And profoundly subtle and surprising in ways that I still surprise me.
This shouldn’t be news to anyone. But it was to me. And it took every ounce of energy I had to fight him directly to find it out.
No easy acceptance on face value for me.
No. It was, you have to get your idea PAST me.
And he did.
And he did.
And he did.
But now that I look back, I am truly gobsmacked.
Challenging God like that.
Standing my ground, day after day, year after year.
So, yeah, damn straight. I’m rigid.
And as I look out over the others who have stood rigid in their faith, in their knowing of God, in their absoluteness, I realize that I am just like them.
For the first time in my life, thanks to a random comment, I feel that I belong to the brother- and sisterhood of the rigid.
Thanks be to God.