How do people live without reverence?
When I first got sober, I used to laugh at meetings when they’d say something like, “I’d get on my knees” or “I’d hit my knees” (okay, I still laugh) as I imagined inappropriate things amidst a very spiritual talk.
But have you ever fallen on your knees with complete reverence? I have. Sometimes it was good. Sometimes it was bad.
The first time it happened, I was eight or nine years old. My body was racked with terror, every cell was on guard. My soul fled my body. I lost control. My knees buckled and I collapsed on tiny knee caps and went straight for the Manager when I yelped out a prayer, God, please help!
That wasn’t me falling on my knees in reverence of anything holy. That was me as a child and scared. It was the beginning of a relationship with fear that would last for a few decades. It set the foundation for a life without safety or security, with horrors my little brain produced in constant fashion, my personal manufacturing-plant of fears.
Now I can see I wasn’t in any real danger. But I lived for a long time thinking that I was.
In fact, I began to seek danger. I created situations that made that energy and fear pulse through me like gasoline: I was toxic, I was combustible, my mere presence was an indicator that something was wrong.
Eventually, my own body grew exhausted. It collapsed on it’s knees in reverence to Surrender. I could not keep up. The faint sense that I should be amped up constantly lingered in my little newly sober brain, though. Where was the drama? The excitement? Where was the pulsating danger reminding me I was alive but should have died?
Instead, other people around me died. And they died rapidly. Sometimes it was only a spiritual death, but the light left their eyes all the same. I won’t attend your funeral either way, sorry. I won’t fall on my knees in reverence to your death. I’m not interested in pretending you were saintly and flawless. I like the messy you, the grumpiness and pain, the biting humor, the advice you gave that I never asked for…
It could be the grief catching up to me, the mourning I tried to outrun, but I’m seeing all those lives now in such a different light. Each of the lives I’ve known, of others and my own, don’t just illuminate my future. They highlight and explain it, like a blacklight on a dirty carpet — ohhh, I see that there, that filth, that debris...
Now I see what I need to do.
Now I see how each of the words I’d exchanged with every soul that was lost carried meaning. Sometimes it was that it meant nothing. That still means something.
Sometimes this grief, this guilt of surviving when I tried everything to die, shakes me awake. I could be walking at the park reading chalk on the sidewalk, or sitting at a red light wondering where the lady in the car next to me is going all dressed in black. I could be hanging up a phone call with a person I couldn’t make happy, or listening to a song I used to soothe myself to sleep when the booze wasn’t enough.
I could simply be sitting across from you, with your holy story and the heart that withstood it, and smile. Oh, the coffee is cold, oh, the music is loud, can I see the pimple on your nose? Your furrowed brow and your sarcastic laugh. These trivial moments that don’t seem like much but…
When you smile you are genuine — you are so present and you don’t know how brilliant that is. Your heart, you haven’t even begun to see it’s resilience. As we leave each other, on good terms or on bad, I do — I fall on my knees in reverence of you and every cell bows in within me.
For the souls that the good Lord has blessed me in knowing, for the spirits that have awakened me, for the angels that never knew they were doing their job. I collapse in awe of all the wonder we don’t stop to see, in you, in me, in the air that we breathe, in the streets that we walk, in the hands that we shake, in the words that we speak.
The wonder is so imposing I almost can’t get up.