I’ve seen many a hurricane in my day. First, super Typhoon Pamela (No, not an ex-girlfriend) produced typhoon-force winds for 18 hours and left 80% of the buildings in its wake. Then was Hurricane Andrew (No, not Gov. Cuomo). Hurricane’s Rita and Katrina, whose one-two punch devastated parts of the southern coast. Last was the remnants of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy flooded everything it touched, but mostly the shores of New Jersey and New York. The flooding was so bad that then-Governor Christie won the ‘I just wanna hug you award’ with then-President Barack Obama. Other not-so-large hurricanes spattered in and out of my life, but none produced lasting memories of those previously mentioned. If there’s one thing I regretted the most from my participation, it was thinking that unless I was strong, I was weak.
The legitimate desire to be the rescuer, ‘to be the hero,’ led to a lifetime of masking and an arrogance of pretending to be wiser or holier than I was. Worse, for many, many years, I believed it. Then, finally, I began to think that my veil was natural. But, like a Facebook game of ‘Farmville,’ the persona created in front of the mask was very different than behind the mask.
God knows I was tired of living this way. The constant attention, always seeking momentary approval, and failure to show vulnerability were devastating to those around me. Yet, year after year, I put on the mask, walked into danger, professed I could save the day. And like a Harry Chapin song, “And now when they turn out the spotlights, I’m not sure where I’m s’posed to go …” I always thought I had to have the answers, to be the guy who could save anyone, but often, as now, I am alone. The silence is deafening.
I can’t perform the way I did 40 years ago. Hell, I can’t perform the way I did 20 years ago. I can barely walk 60 yards without screaming pain, but a nod to my former self rarely shown veil within says, “Be strong.” The real me says, “I am tired of being strong.” In such moments, I converse with God and Kanako, “You can still provide answers.” The real me replies, “At times, even I doubt the answers.” When I get past the pain of my physical ailments, I walk into meetings, deliver a message of hope, tary onward, and persevere. I exit, wondering if I just reenacted the biggest leader-fail ever seen.
One of the hardest things for to understand is how Jesus would shed tears for me. God knows I’ve utterly failed in the leadership category. Yet, He forgives. I am positive He hates the intrusion of ‘failure’ in our lives. But He provides a glimpse of His humanity. “Where have you put him?” Jesus asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they answered. Jesus wept.” Jesus wept for His friends. I believe in many ways He weeps for us.
When someone is hurting, the greatest gift is giving someone our presence and sharing in their suffering. When we do this, Jesus reminds us that no matter what we face in life, Jesus is right there with us. He is there through children dying, marital affairs, COVID deaths, stale employment, lack of jobs, or your favorite team (Chicago Cubs) trading core players. At Lazarus’ tomb, He wept. Imagine it? A grown man cries, openly weeping for all to see.
Let’s face it; there’s a lot to weep for. Today, people appear frail and thinned-skinned. With openly fight with airline passengers and flight staff, we charge and assault school teachers over vaccines and $10.00 facial masks, we protest our right is the best right, that white is better than black, that because we’re aggrieved, we can destroy another. You live in pain. You’re dying. Your child is dying. Or perhaps, your spouse is dying. And just like you, I am dying. My father died. A multitude of hurt lay in Hurricane U.B.’s (Unknown Buddhist) wake. You wish to be better. I wanted to have been better. I ache for the world my nieces and nephews will inherit. I wish I could have left it better. Like you, I’ve pretended things are okay when literally, I am dying.
In all my encounters with God, I cannot emphasize the amount of humanity and love. I expected retribution. I received love. I expected expulsion. I received a hug. I was no longer cold in Him, not because life’s ‘storms’ dissipated, but because of the warmth. Of course, we all make bad decisions. But the true spirituality of love fills the soul with warmth. It’s intoxicating. It’s addicting. And when I hugged Him, I did not want to go. But go, I must, for I was sent to this world to experience all aspects of life and to learn whatever I can through every step.
Of course, the following steps aren’t the ones we’d choose. But we must take them. Yes, the trail is filled with periods of fog and uncertainty of where one trail marker ends, and another begins. “Which do I take?” we question. But the spirituality of ‘true north’ always leads us onward. “Ah, God.” I would say. “I may have lost the marker, and I might be late to the party, but because of my ‘true north’ (my compass), I am heading in the right direction.” So I head toward my invitation of shelter with the humility to know I needed it, the guts to seek it, and the generosity to share it.