Paying Attention Bill McDonald’s
October 2021 - Volume 21, No. 10
I remember concluding my previous Newsletter with an open question about the meaning of those previous weeks’ Florida vacation/hospitalization and heart emergency. (It’s perhaps a therapist thing to inquire about the particular meaning of things.) And I recall leaving the question open for the time - not being in any hurry to rush into such an existential validation of my recent ordeal. (Or maybe it was just a native retrospective laziness on my part. But either way is seemed useful on my part to forestall any such introspection.
And then - true to something curiously beyond my understanding, it was exactly one month from my hospital homecoming, which was Monday August 16 - I walked (maybe hobbled a bit) back into my Fenton home. And just a month later, September 16, I was sitting in this very same living room chair, lightly pondering these things - when an answer emerged.
I had been living in the midst of a network of grace into which the word “providence” easily slipped. Neighbors and friends emerged - not that I needed them, it’s more that I began to realize how much I wanted to need them around me. I have returned to my house and my work. My house needs more help than in previous years. There are things I can still do, but there’s more work others can help with, and more and more the idea of ‘hiring things out’ makes a comfortable sense. The same is true of managing my business.
I also came to realize how active a trans-continental news network my son Michael had developed from California for family and friends, completely separate from my awareness while I was hospitalized. It seems many were “Google-Doc’ing” daily, almost hourly about my progress and well-being. After returning home, I eventually chased down that document, and was delighted to learn so much more about my adventure I never realized from the confines of that hospital bed.
At first I was uncomfortable using this term. I realized that it was such a powerful term in terms of my own experience, and my own meaning for this awareness. Everywhere I turned, there were gifts for me.
For many the word comes from a belief that “the Lord will provide.” This can be a trust in the ongoing of God’s purpose for God’s eternal Creative work. Or, at another extreme it can become a stance that we ourselves need do nothing, everything is passively in God’s hands.
In recently reading Mary Trump’s new book, “Reckoning” I felt under her indictment of our prevailing culture, beneath it all there’s an often hidden ‘blessing’ at work.
And in spite of so much suffering on our planet, I’m personally willing to ‘trust’ the providence that has come my way.
I remember with a curious joy, an “old Portuguese proverb” I once read in my Penthouse magazine days:
“God says, take whatever you want - then pay for it.”
Having the courage of the second part sometimes gives me courage for the first part. My source for that proverb was their then columnist Xaviera Hollander the owner of that legal brothel in Nevada. For me, the inherent trust in providence goes far back, farther back than the Biblical Book of Job, back even to the knowledge of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. It’s not of necessity an easy path to navigate.
But from my same easy chair, I was able to see more clearly the option of placing myself in the “arms of providence.” Both the ‘placement’ and the ‘challenge’ stood there (in the face of my library wall of books) in balance.
Now it’s beginning to make sense for my having the courage to say “yes.”
And Finally, the “Yes” for Others
In this same chair - again. Preparing this ‘final draft’ of my October Newsletter. Providence once again inserting itself. (There’s a story for that as well, but now no time for extraneous narrative.
At no time in this entire ‘event’ did I consider the option of just letting go. My body, and especially my heart, apparently did, but I recall no such willful consideration on the part of my psyche. I never had any awareness how close I had come to crossing over.
And yet an increasing number of my recent clients have spoken of suicide in these past weeks.
Rather I have been considering how many people there were gathered around me to keep me alive - including Janie B at those breakfast table my heart initially collapsed, and who had me in an ambulance in 10 minutes flat; Eleven days of constant quality med-surgical and nursing care at Port Charlotte’s Bayfront Medical Center; Google Docs which allowed son Michael to smoothly manage family and legal communication in my ‘absence’. And then there are the hundreds of readers of my Newsletter account a month ago, and their many warm responses.
And then there are my many clients (patients) friends and neighbors who one by one these past weeks have been relating their internal anxiety over my vulnerability.
It’s humbling to realize how many people have been ‘carrying’ me. And that some of my own purpose and destiny remains connected with that great fellowship or what I feel as a network of grace.
And now I come to release many of you toward my own responsibility to “take care of Bill” on my own behalf as well.
My heart says Thank you.
And now for you, my curious readers, may you also learn to ….
I chased down a word-count utility, and realized the full ‘document’ added up to 2,323 words! (Sorry, it’s no longer a sharable document. It’s work was temporary and is finished now.)
Thank you, 16th century Swiss reformation theologian, and proto-Presbyterian, John Calvin.
A whimsical afterthought:
In all the years of our marriage, my wife (now long divorced and subsequently deceased), even though married to me, a clergyman, would declare herself non-religious, and in her later years would comfortably label herself a “heathen.” I was never much bothered by this, figuring it was her own spiritual path, and for me to contend would gain me nothing but further resistance. More than once she would explain to me that the root of her ‘anti-Christian’ bent came from childhood. She wanted a bicycle, and had been taught in Sunday School that if she wanted something, she could get it by praying for it. Well, as much as she prayed for the bicycle, God never provided her one. And she never forgave His non-providence in the matter.
Then, in the waning years of our marriage, I purchased myself a fine bicycle. She then defiantly purchased one for herself. Only now, many many years later, do I realize I myself may have become the agent by which she finally got a brand new silver bicycle of her very own. (And delightfully without having to forgive me of anything.)
Yes, I could have left that out, but it does speak me of a new personal sense of balance. And, to my knowledge, neither bicycle needs now exist. WKM
God is good.
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