I wasn’t really sure I knew who Charlie Sheen was and had never heard of the show “Two and A Half Men”. But even for someone as removed from pop culture as I am noticed the column about Sheen in Saturday’s Seattle Times and the tag line in today’s paper, “Did Media Fuel Sheen’s Shenanigans?”
It got me yesterday morning watching Sheen’s interview on “20/20” from a week ago. I got half way through before I found myself getting very depressed and thankfully pushed some wrong button on the computer screen which turned the show off. I’d heard enough to get the point. There is nothing really funny about watching a soul in pain. The confusion and rage, addiction and anguish of a soul acting out with drugs, sex and other shenanigans.
Charlie Sheen is part of all of us. He’s that part of all of us that does not want to listen to ourselves, spins in our own rage, hurt and grief. And until the alcohol, drugs, and mental health issues are addressed there is just more spinning and raging and hurting. Nowhere else to go. Charlie is like Mary, the character in Mike Leigh’s movie, “Another Year” who is also falling apart in midlife. Fortunately, Mary has a friend, Gerri, who Mary has hurt and disappointed by her own shenanigans. At the end of the movie, Gerri turns to her and says, “Mary, you need to take responsibility for your own life. You need to get some help. Find someone to talk to….” We don’t know if Mary will wake up and take responsibility for her life or not. Don’t know if Charlie will either. Mary and Charlie are that part of all of us that doesn’t want to grow up and take responsibility for our own lives.
Some of my family, friends, and loved ones at church are living in particularly stressful and challenging times in their lives. But thinking about it, they are also some of the people I know who are doing the best with living in and through times of deep change. No, it is not easy, but they are walking through and have not been overcome. It is those who don’t realize that their lives are on the edge, lost in fear and frenzy, that I worry about. They are the ones whose lives I see spinning out of control without their even being aware of it.
Yesterday I learned that 85% of clergy pray less than 10 minutes a day. Maybe that is true for many of us. It made me very sad and wonder, “Who is listening? Who is listening to their lives? Who is paying attention, awake and aware, listening for the heartbeat of God?” And if you are one of those listeners, know that your praying, your listening, is really important, really matters for all of us.
Last month the writer Anne Lamott spoke at Seattle University. She said, “People seem to think of me as this free-spirited, airy-fairy, hippy-dippy California girl. But in fact behind all this is a lot of discipline. Every day my life is a set of structured disciplines of meditation, prayer, exercise, walking the dog, writing…”
Anne Lamott saw her way through alcoholism and drug abuse. And I hear from her that she works hard and intentionally to live a life of sobriety, of being awake and alive in real life.
Real life is hard. And yes, sometimes really hard. And real life is a good place to be as well, rather than lost in the fantasy and addictions that feel all so good until we sober up and need to escape from the pain and grief of life once again.
The Way of Jesus we call Christian Faith is about waking up. It is about living a real life. Finding a community of care that can help us stay awake and live real lives in a real world. In faith we dare to believe that it is here in the present that God is meeting us. But you have to be willing to be sober and awake to know that. And yes, it is worth it. And it comes with a cost. Maybe tears or getting in touch with deep hurt and rage. Maybe having to face up to responsibility and accountability. For sure, a good dose of humility. Recognizing once again that it really isn’t our job to keep the whole world happy and together. That none of us can do this walk in life alone.
Last week a group of us at church were at a training for BeFriender Ministry, a ministry program to help support congregations in deepening our practice of listening to one another through the “trials of the spirit and times of joy” that are our lives. It reminded me of the simple power of just listening to another from their perspective. Listening with care and attention and without judgment. Trusting that God is present and at work. No need to fix or control, cure or preach. Good attentive listening can lead to transformation. Being listened to can change your life.
The season of Lent begins today with “Ash Wednesday” and the invitation after a traditional night of feasting and shenanigans, to wake up once again to your life, to real life. The tradition of a Lenten discipline is to find something to do that helps keep you awake and aware, listening for the heartbeat of God in your soul and in your life. Maybe this season is inviting you to take some time each day to pray, to listen to your soul. Maybe it is calling you to listen with care to someone, and let someone listen with care to you. And in that listening, I pray that we might wake up to real life, our true life, hear God’s heartbeat in us all. That the Charlie’s and Mary’s in our lives, and each one of us might be met, healed, changed, transformed by the living Christ who meets us here, in and between us, calling us out of our self-made prisons to new and more abundant life in this very real world.