Archive for March, 2010

The Alleluia Egg

This morning, as I walked Rose down the hill for her postprandial stroll, it started snowing.  Small, round, lumps of snow, somewhere short of hail but without the definition of flakes, drifting down from the sky, suitable accompaniment to the cold wind that has been whipping the lake to whitecaps the last two days.

It is Easter today, and this snow reminded me of waking to an Easter blizzard years ago, excited by prospects of the Easter egg hunt and wondering how we would find eggs with all that snow on the ground.

For us, the hunt was usually confined to family—I guess my mother figured that 8 children were enough to supervise.  And since we lived in Michigan a good deal of my childhood, I remember those egg searches often taking place inside the house, since outside there could be mud, rain, or—as in this case—snow.

I don’t remember much about this particular day; I don’t know if the blizzard kept us home from church, although I suspect not.  I don’t even remember who found the “Alleluia” egg, which entitled you to an extra chocolate treat in addition to your Easter basket.  What I do remember is that some of the eggs were hidden in the back hall.

The back hall was an area on the second floor of our old house, an area with storage closets and two tiny rooms used in years past for housing the maids.  There were no radiators so it was bitter cold in the winter; that part of the house was generally closed off from November to April.  But for some reason my mother decided the back hall would be a good place to conceal several eggs.  So she did, and we found them.  That is, we found almost all of them.  The last one was discovered months later when, like Hamlet, the summer occupant of the room “nosed it.”

That secret hiding place, so clandestine that even my mother couldn’t uncover it again, turned out to be a problem.  And so too with the hiding places of my heart, I think, having nosed out a hidden, malodorous part of my personality just this week.

The setting has been a project with religious implications, a project designed to do good. (Ever notice how those unfortunate character traits rear their heads precisely at the place where we’re trying to be helpful?)  The offender was another member of the project group who irritates me in a mild way.  The trigger was an email, a lot like the emails before it.  But I was tired, and for some reason, this one was the last straw.  I just didn’t know it right away.

The way I discovered that something was wrong was that I woke up pissed off.  Not just once, but three mornings in a row.  I fumed, I fussed, I lined up my arguments; and all the while I tried not to think about it.  No matter my intentions, I couldn’t stop imagining scenarios—confrontation, public embarrassment, shunning.  I prayed for this sinner, best as I knew how.  Finally I realized that I would have to talk to the person with whom I was so upset.  But before I came to that conclusion, I complained—on and on and on—to my poor patient spouse.

After listening to me whinge for the third day in a row, George finally said, “Who does she remind you of?”  I threw off a couple of names—old nemeses, all of them—but nothing felt right.  But the next morning—as I prepared for meditation—I nosed out the truth, that long-hidden Easter egg.

She reminded me of myself.

Forceful?  Check.  Intelligent?  Check. Passionate about doing good?  Check.  Opinionated?  Check.  Unconscious about the impact of her behaviour on others?  Half a check, please!  Able to talk so long and loud that a sane person would take off their long underwear, lined boots, lined pants, fur-lined coat, mittens and toque in minus 40 degree weather just to shut her up?  Actually, I’m not that persuasive.

I was transported back years,  to my work as a lobbyist and my willingness to run over anyone who got in the way of what I considered right.  I was transported back a few days, to the disdain I’d expressed for a theological perspective I deemed half-baked.  I was transported back a month, to my ruthless critique of a sermon and the minister who delivered it.  I saw, in that sneaky way that prayer and meditation can show you, that the stuff I hate about this member of “my” group is what I hate about myself.  Like the long-lost Easter egg, these memories reeked.

This isn’t the end of the story, of course.  I really do have to sit down with this woman and talk to her about finding a different way for us to communicate.  But I think I’ll be doing it differently than I’d planned a few days ago.

And lest you think I’m wallowing, I had the great grace—on that same day that I got gob-smacked by my own intemperance—to run across this quotation from Lawrence Freeman, OSB.  Freeman is the director of the World Community of Christian Meditation, and he writes this to help people who are struggling in their practice with turbulence, anger, a hard heart or indifference—all the myriad distractions that make us want to judge ourselves.  He says,
At the place where we accept our imperfection—and only there—grace comes to our aid.  It is as natural as a dog running to its master and indeed, in this sense only, God is at our beck and call.  God cannot resist humility.

So not only is this not the end of the story for me and my fellow project member: it’s not the end of the story for me.  Accepting my own behaviour, behaviour that has been destructive of community and demeaned others, does not mean that I have to drown in grief and remorse.  As Freeman says, in this sense only, God is at our beck and call.  I dare to say that God won’t resist my humility.  The joy of humility, the grace of recognizing my own error, is the occasion of grace.  God can’t and won’t resist me.  Hoohah!  This is the best Alleluia egg I ever got!!

Copyright © Mary Therese DesCamp 2010