I’m back from my pine needle filled vacation! Though I’m glad I took some time off I felt a little like James T. Kirk struggling against an alien energy force “must… write… blog… must… not… hike… any…more… through… forest”. So I’m glad I’m back!
While preparing for the trip I had day dreams of finding God in the wilderness — far far away from the people packed suburbs. We were heading to the Stanislaus National Forest where Bigfoot has been sighted so there was also a possibility of finding God and Sasquatch. The imagined scenario went something like this: sitting peacefully on an ancient granite rock with Sequoia’s surrounding me in piney bliss, breathing in the crisp air I meditate on the wonders of nature and God. Maybe a little bird, squirrel or (Sasquatch) comes by and says hello. Eventually I am enlightened with peace, calm, light and joy.(sigh…)
The real scenario during our day hike went more like this: (kid 1) “MOMMY I need MILKY! MOMMY pick me up! Pick me up! (kid 2) How many more days until we can go back home? Can I play my D.S. when we get to the car?” (kid 3) I got SAP on my hand! OMG it won’t come off! Help me! (husband– in deep woodsman voice) You must learn to enjoy having sap on your hand! This is the forest! Sap is liquid gold! (kid 3) But my fingers are stuck together I’m losing the use of my hand! (husband) If you can hike another mile maybe I will clean it off. (me – yelling) Be quiet! Listen to the forest! Be calm! Be peaceful! Is it almost 5:00?!!!!
By the time we got back to the car I was determined to find peace at least in the forest parking lot. I put the kids in the car with the air on and a movie (don’t judge) while my husband went into “the” diner to get us some coffee. I stayed outside of the car, closed all the doors and finally heard nothing. This is impossible, I thought. Why do I think I need silence and peace to find God anyway? Maybe it was that quote from Mother Teresa:
The fruit of silence is prayer,
The fruit of prayer is faith,
The fruit of faith is love and
The fruit of love is silence.
Just as I was settling into true contemplation an old pick up truck drove up. Out of an entire empty parking lot he decided to park right next to me — great. I turned to avoid him and noticed my toddler had somehow gotten into the “please be good” chocolates. As I opened the door and began wiping the chocolate off her hands, mouth, legs, eyes and car window I heard a distinct spitting sound and felt a splatter of wetness hit the back of my legs. “What the…?” I turned around and realized I was face to face with Sasquatch. Actually it was just a heavily bearded and disheveled mountain man, foaming at the mouth, but it could have been Sasquatch. Toothbrush in hand he leaned out of his car proudly looking down at the giant puddle of toothpaste pulp with which he had just stained the asphalt and my legs.
“Do you realize you just spit on me?” I managed in a high-pitched squeak of shock. “Oh did I getcha?” he laughed. “I just came out of the wilderness and I’m about to go into that there diner and I didn’t want to offend anybody with my stink.” And with that, he got out, closed his car door and sauntered across the parking lot, “HEY!” I shouted “I’m offended, I’M OFFENDED!” But he didn’t hear me because I shouted it inside my head. I fumed. I can’t believe in the middle of the forest with only two cars in this bo-hunk parking lot that some random Sasquatch just spit his toothpaste all over the back of my legs! Who was this guy? Romulus, Remus? Had he been raised by a pack of wolves because he didn’t even apologize! No APOLOGY for spewing his gross “I haven’t washed in a week” wilderness mouth spit on me? And THEN sauntering (not walking) leisurely strolling away? Expletive! Expletive! Expletive!
Luckily, I had industrial strength baby wipes handy, which I highly recommend to everyone, because you never know when you will need to wipe in desperation. I harkened back to the time I was mauled by a sweaty mess of a gym rat. He had accidentally tackled me just as my husband and I were walking into our fancy 10 year anniversary dinner. The difference is, that day, I was without baby wipes. Needless to say, the acrid smell of gym sweat permeated our small romantic booth.Hmmmm….I pondered……Why do these things happen to me? I just wanted to escape into the wilderness and find God in the forest but, instead, I found toothpaste man. It seems, no matter how much I try to avoid my fellow-man I am eventually and forcibly drenched in humanity — be it with sweat or spit I cannot seem to get away from “us”.
I sat back in the car trying to understand what all this was about when it hit me. I didn’t need to find God in nature. I could see Him there clearly. God in humanity, however, I was completely ignoring and evidently I was dense enough to need (another) wake up call in the form of toothpaste spittle to remind me to look. I realized that contemplation in silence may bring one closer to God but contemplation amidst the chaos of humanity helps one SEE God. After all His flesh and blood were like ours and He loved us enough to be us. I know now this is my greatest challenge: to love thy neighbor as thyself — even if he spits on you. Maybe it is yours as well?
Love of God, love of neighbor (by Pope Benedict)
‘If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20). The whole context of the passage quoted from the First Letter of John shows that such love is explicitly demanded. The unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbor is emphasized. One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbor or hate him altogether.
Here we see the necessary interplay between love of God and love of neighbor which the First Letter of John speaks of with such insistence. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. The saints—consider the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta—constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbor from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its realism and depth in their service to others.
Love of God and love of neighbor are thus inseparable; they form a single commandment. Love grows through love. Love is “divine” because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a “we” which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). via God Is Love: Pope Benedict’s First Encyclical in Condensed Form – Catholic Update April©2006.