I’ve been writing for free on the Internet for quite some time now.
Maybe you’re VIVIDLY aware of my rather wordy penchant for stringing you along through an almost endless sentence for a joke about Mean Girls…or this is the first time we’re meeting. Either way, I wrote something a few days ago about depression, and death, and what happens to us when people’s well intentioned belief in God, family, and college football playoff scenarios turns on us because of who we are, or who we love, or how we make sense of things none of us are sure about.
And with tears and cheers and joy and sorrow you said:
Your WITHness cracked me open in true Cohen-esque fashion, allowing the light to get in and finally reach the parts of me I had long-ago stuffed under the basement stairs. Needless to say, I’m still rubbing my eyes from the brilliance of it all.
Then, several days later, countless women I have the privilege of knowing and being known by began saying “me too” again and again and again because of the way who they are, and how they look, and where they fit (or don’t) has been violently sacrificed on the altar of seething and fearful masculinity. Anne Lamott (I think), once commented (and I'm badly paraphrasing here) that the voice of God typically only says one thing in the face of senseless suffering, violence, and alienation:
because everything else is just self-interested marketing and religious mumbo-jumbo.
In the Christianity in which I came of age, the only appropriate time to mention that most of us spend the lion’s share of our existences in the tall grass, is whenever we happen to be on the other side of whatever “it” is we’re going through (whether that “it" be abuse, violence, rejection, chemo, an addiction, or just this gnawing sense that life is a tragically repetitive loop of pain, frustration, and corporate fraud).
In this tradition, stories only have power if they come from people who “fight” cancer (whatever that means), and win. Because, if we haven’t been fixed or saved or healed, how will our truth be able to testify to our ever-important belief in the great cosmic vending machine dispensing good gifts to those he loves from the heavens above?
If our hands are empty, or better yet, if our hands are deeply scarred and our sides are still bleeding, how will people know the strength of this God and his ongoing fidelity to people he’s contractually obligated to remember at the end of things no matter the raw data comprising the thrust of their lives.
The beauty of the crucifixion (if anyone can call such a thing “beautiful”) is that God’s answer to the endlessly repetitive and self-inflicted pain of the universe is that God gives flesh and blood and joy and pain and sacrifice rather than taking them from a world hellbent on destroying itself. And upon releasing this unexpectedly sacrificial gift into the ether of the world's pain, God leaves things unfinished, as if the willingness to unearth our pain and our scars for others to behold is somehow the saving, rather than that which comes just before the saving.
It's like God says
to the shared pain and abuse knitting all of us together, and instead of simply reminding us to NEVER STOP BELIEVING with esoteric platitudes, high harmonies, and religious propaganda, God actually dies. Because in dying, in being killed and shamed and abused and rejected and alienated for who God was, and who God loves, and how God fits (or doesn’t) in the world we have created, God incarnates the words “me too”.
The reason why the words “me too” have the power to topple studio executives, empires, and lucrative franchises is because they are divinity incarnate.
God doesn’t just say “me too” to the world,
God is the “me too” holding it together even when the edges seem apocalyptically frayed.
And when we, when you and I, whisper “me too” to one another (or just quietly to the heavens) in the face of our own or the personal hells of others, we aren’t just saying something trite or conciliatory or flippant as a way of moving the conversation along, we are bearing WITHness to something foundational, something spiritual (even if that word gives you the creeps), something sacred about what it means to be human.
Or better yet, about what it means to be divine.
May you, especially when it hurts and complicates your world, hear “me too” from those around you, and even if or when you don’t, may you hear it cacophonously crying out from “the very stones at your feet," as one rather noteworthy rabbi once put it.
Because the saving, the healing, the freeing, is found only when we bear WITHness to the death, and not the other way around.
*photo credit: Creative Commons