I was reminiscing with a friend recently about his 'dark night of the soul' that he'd just experienced. During his pain, he turned his back on God. Raised in a traditional Catholic family he found himself very angry at God and at the church during an especially ugly divorce and custody battle. As he's coming back into himself, we've been talking and processing together through a lot of what happened and what he's been through. It took him three years to even begin to let go of the extreme rage he felt when she first left him. I had tried desperately to guide him through his hell with the help of my spiritual beliefs, but he was just too mad at God to hear any of it. His issues had nothing to do with me, but they just about ended our friendship because of his overwhelming anger at the entire world and everyone in it.
Why would God let this happen to him? Hadn't he been a good person? Hadn't he given an incredible amount of his time and money to the church? If doing good deeds creates a positive karmic result, then what the heck just happened to turn his world upside down? I've seen it happen to a lot of people. Bad things happen so there must not be a god ? or ? God must not like them anymore. Either way, people feel abandoned by their concepts of religion and by their god. Like so many others, my friend went through hell without believing there was a God to look after him. It took him a long time to even begin the healing process as a result.
It was hard to talk to him about spirituality during that time. It didn't help that we had such a polarity in our different belief systems. I'm really quite metaphysical and New Age while he was extremely traditional and orthodox in his Catholicism. We didn't even speak the same language when trying to discuss our religious leanings. One of the major signs that he's finally beginning to come around and heal is his openness to even discuss the topic of spirituality without going off into a tirade over the injustices that God had forced him to endure.
As we sat there talking about it all the other night, I finally found the words the perfect analogy that I'd been searching for over those three years. I use the term "spirit" as a generic term for God, Buddha, Mohammed, The Force, Guardian Angels, The Light, or whatever else you like to call it. Please replace the word "spirit" with whatever label you use to describe your idea of what that higher something is?. This isn't the place to debate such things. The analogy fits regardless of your religious beliefs.
"Spirit is like a life preserver. When you find yourself drowning in hot water, it's not the life preserver's fault that you somehow landed yourself there. Life preserver's aren't put on the boat to keep you from falling over. However, when you find yourself there, struggling, drowning, suffering from life's problems, you will respond one of three ways. You might panic and struggle causing you to sink deeper. The harder you fight it, the heavier you seem to get and you begin sinking like a rock. That's what my friend did. You might try to swim on your own, but the world and it's ocean is a big place and humans aren't designed to swim alone forever. You will eventually drown from the sheer exhaustion of trying to go it alone. Your third option is to reach for that life preserver, relax and trust that it will bring you above water so that you can once again breathe freely. The life preserver won't pull you back up into the boat, but it will keep you from drowning as long as you trust that you will again be above water and you will see the sunlight on your face again."
To me that's what spirituality is really all about. We're supposed to handle our problems and circumstances on our own. That's the way the game was designed to be played. We are meant to reach out to our fellow man in times of need and to offer a hand to others in need. Some celestial being from above isn't suppose to bail us out of every problem every time. We're supposed to learn how to love one another through life's challenges. If we have a strong connection to Spirit while holding on to that life preserver, and we relax in the knowing that everything will turn out for the best, then eventually our head does pop up above water and we do breathe in the fresh air of life once again. Then we can turn to our companions and request their help in getting back up into the boat. Once again, sailing off into another sunset.
My friend liked my analogy. Why couldn't I find those words three years ago? Would he have listened if I had? Hard to say. There were times I jumped into the water with him and tried to pull him out, but like any lifeguard knows, you can't save someone who's fighting and panicking through the process. I threw that life preserver out to him more times than I can count, but he always swam away from it. There were times I thought to leave him there to drown, but it seemed a bit too cold and cruel to just leave him there. Finally, my own Guardian Angels told me, "Let him alone. He must find his own way." And so it appears that's what he's doing. He seems to have found a life preserver and some peace with his god. Next time, somebody ought to just throw a lasso around him whether he wants it or not and then drag him along behind the boat until he's ready to stand up like a water-skier!
Copyright 2003, Skye Thomas, Tomorrow's Edge
About The Author
Skye Thomas began writing books and articles with an everyday practical approach to spirituality, motivation, and inspiration in 1999 after twenty years of studying spirituality, metaphysics, motivation, and parenting. More of her articles can be found at www.tomorrowsedge.net as well as free previews of her books.