I appreciate my readers, and am always surprised to see folks from far away places that find my blog. Of course I am hoping that they are reading, and not data mining, but…I digress. Writing is something I do everyday, in my head, but I don’t always post those jumbled thoughts (yes, this is the organized thinking you are reading here.) When I have not posted for a while, it is because something very troubling has been going on. Perhaps those who see me on a regular basis think I am fine. I laugh, I joke, I sing, I attend to my responsibilities, but inside there is great pain; it is a grief that, as the Les Mis song, says, can’t be spoken. I suppose it can’t be written either. So this post is mostly about how I am dealing with my grief, not the actual sad events. Maybe one day I will share more.
Since last April our family has lost three very beloved people, one very old, one very young, and one my age (which I like to call not that old), and I have submerged to do my usual coping routine: privately weep till there were no more tears, plead with God to fix it all, bargain with Him using lures that He does not need or care about, eat anything chocolate, hibernate, and finally, like a weaned child against its mother, come to rest on Him, and understand that God is still good, even if He lets such sorrow fall on us. It’s an oft-repeated (an ofpeated I might say) cycle in my life, and maybe one you are familiar with (or one with which you are familiar for you old school English folks). The resting does not mean I relish the sad stuff (in fact I hate it), but only that I trust the One who is in charge of the universe, and I still believe that He is good. If ever I post about God not being good, then you can send out the intervention evites (perhaps those are already filled out.)
As I wrestled with my sorrow through the spring and summer, a Fall social gathering came around that got me to thinking about my life so far: my high school reunion. Somehow I got to be many decades past my reunion; not really sure how that happened. Although I wasn’t able to attend, I was flooded with memories of old friends and happier times, if only because we were young and had no idea what was waiting for us out there (though much of it was good stuff).
I even went back as far as the days at St. Pat’s as a young Catholic school girl. One of the nuns was so impressed that three of us attended mass each day at lunch time, that she used to make the other kids move out of our way by calling out “Make way for the People of God!” Little did she know that we were first hitting the Tiny Store for candy, then eating it in the last row during the Mass, returning for lunch after everyone was already back in class, and then smugly trotting into class late while getting approving smiles from the nuns. My better half likes to call me this way when we are in a crowded room, as I am making my way to the front, and it always makes me laugh.
So getting back to the reunion. I noticed that one of our classmates had become a priest. The rapid stream of consciousness that followed went like this:
Well, John was a sweet and kind fellow; I can see him being a priest.
I guess that is no surprise.
I bet he hates it though when people act differently around him–sort of like they have to be on their good behavior. I recalled a dear pastor of ours who liked to tell folks that he pitched for the Atlanta Braves. He just got so sick of the reaction to his revelation that he was a minister.
But what about you? You have changed into this different person from high school. You used to be smart but pretty silly, and very naive. Now you are wise enough to know you aren’t as smart as you thought, and you are still silly…but you had a huge life change in your freshman year.
Yes, I did have a life change, but it is so hard to explain it without getting the minister reaction. And pious, religious people are rather off-putting even to me so….how do I explain that I am not religious, but I am believing? I thought of the usual words people associate with people of faith: Christian, holy roller, religious, Jesus freak, good person, etc. While some of those might apply to me, the true meaning of the words has been changed over the years, and their connotation is not quite how I would describe myself. So I wrestled to come up with a better word.
Most of you would not know, but I have always wanted to make up a new word. Sometimes my kids and I would think of something that should be a word. It would describe a feeling or circumstance that is known to all but that lacks a precise word. Caught red-handed for example could be cranded, or accident prone could be acciprone or the way cooler spelling, axiprone. (At this point my ESL readers know that English has more words than any other language, and are probably shuddering at the thought of more new words. NO MORE WORDS! I can hear them screaming.)
But…to describe my own journey and new life I needed a useful word. That is where SCOJA came to mind. It does not sound cool, so it won’t catch on, and I don’t see it appearing in any hymns (Lord, I want to be a SCOJA in my heart, in my heart… does not sound pretty.) I think the best way to describe me, and please put this in my obit dear family, is that I am a sinner counting on Jesus’ atonement, a SCOJA. I am not now, or have ever been a good person, as those who know me can verify. I am not religious in the sense that I faithfully attend to daily rituals. I am not Christian in the adjective sense of the word, which has come to mean good and nice and sweet. Nope, those who know the real me would say that at times I am selfish, and mean, and silly, and lazy, and lots of other things. They would also say I can be kind, and loving and funny and sweet. It’s all true, the good the bad and the ugly. And my sweet Joe knows it all. But he is a SCOJA too and he knows it (If you’re a SCOJA and you know it clap your hands. See, it is just not going to work in a song). That is why Joe and I get along so well–we share an awareness that we are not good people, but we are sinners in need of Jesus’ atonement. (And he is a minister to the Chinese, not a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves.)
So if I come to a reunion, don’t tiptoe around me, or put your beer down. I will share one with you if I am not driving. I still love people, especially funny people, and I still love to laugh and act silly. I come to any gathering knowing that by the grace of God, Jesus paid the penalty for my sins, and that on my own I have nothing to boast about. Even though I still sin (have gotten rather good at it in all these years since high school), I have the forgiveness that I need, and that I could not secure on my own. That is the heart of a SCOJA. (I am a S, I am a SC, I am a SCOJA…give it up–THERE IS NO SONG WHERE THIS WORKS!)
Being a SCOJA means that I am mindful of my need for Christ-and this enters into all aspects of life–happy times and sad. It is the anchor that keeps me sane (all evidence to the contrary) and brings me back when I am low. My biggest problem has been taken care of. So I grieve as an anchored SCOJA.
Ok, I need to add SCOJA to the computer dictionary, order my SCOJA bumper sticker, and oh yeah, write a song. Cheers and God bless.