This may come a shock to you but apparently, wait for it………….
I am not the center of the universe.
I know, right? I’ve been mistaken in my thinking for years. I mean, obviously Stephen Hawking disagreed with me but, seriously? Who is he? I’m the center of the universe, man. Except, apparently I’m not. There are some amazing implications in this discovery, i.e., when I have emotional issues and problems, incidents and accidents (thanks, Paul!), when I feel like I am going crazy, the universe doesn’t stop and reorder itself around my anomalous disturbances. Bummer.
And when my friends, my brothers and sisters, my boon companions, have problems. I can’t always help, in fact, sometimes I make things worse. Go figure. Here I thought I was God’s answer to the Problem of Evil. I thought, apparently, that if I could feel enough, hurt enough, cry enough, show up enough, empathize enough, I could take away peoples pain, but I can’t. I thought, apparently, that I could love folks so much it would change their lives, but I can’t, as I’m not the center of the universe. I’m sorry. I can’t fix it. I can’t even fix my own craziness.
At least this epiphany of mine explains why no one comes running when I go a little crazy. It explains why sometimes I feel alone. If I am the center of the universe then everything and everyone revolves around me. If I’m not, then sometimes I can find myself lost out in some backwater, space trash section of the cosmos with no help for it but to wait until I find myself back in my own galaxy. So what to do? It’s a disturbing thing to find yourself suddenly careening out of your normal orbit and realize that the universe isn’t careening along with you. So now what?
This is when I start trying to figure out where I left God. Which is silly because it makes Him sound like a set of keys or a debit card. (Now where did I put that God?). If I’m the center of the universe then God is my Personal Jesus Christ, my Genie in a Lamp, my Private Dancer…. He does, what I want when I want Him, too. Right? He’s there when I am hurt and sad. He comes and pats my head as I praise Him and tells me in his deep paternal voice, “It’s okay, you’re loved! You have a purpose! You’re a child of the King!” like some awesome cross between James Earl Jones and Joel Osteen. Sheesh, that’s really shallow and pathetic. No wonder my lost friends have looked into my faith and found it wanting. It’s all about me, or was, when I thought I was the center of the universe.
I know it doesn’t work that way, but sometimes I forget. We are so busy trying to label and relabel ourselves and trying to hang on to this theology or that theology because it makes us feel better. (I have Free Will! I am one of The Elect! I can worship anywhere! My church is the right one ! There is a Hell because those people have to go there! There is no Hell because God wouldn’t send me there! These songs are the only songs we can sing that mean anything to God! We can sing anything we want because God is so into our choices! Etc Etc Ad Nauseum.) I love the line from the movie Rudy:
“Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not Him.”
I would probably have a couple more incontrovertible facts than Father Cavanaugh since I have to minister in real life, not a film so it’s a bit more complicated than all that. But not much, really. This seems to be the starting point and the finishing point. This seems to be the point of equilibrium for our journeys. I am not the center of the universe.
I’ve learned this before, so have most of you. This isn’t some amazing new insight. I’ve been in an odd place emotionally for a couple of weeks, and here I am thinking that it means I’m all deep and stuff. Turns out it just means, this time, that I’m a selfish jerk. What a wretched man am I, as the Apostle Paul would say.
When I was involved in live theater I had two particular incidents that have stuck with me for years that are related to his post. Once in High School and once in College I got cast as a narrator. Now these two shows were very different. In the HS play, I didn’t really even like the script, but I was a Senior and the lead in my last school one-act should have been mine! Or so I thought. The college play was very much to my liking and again, I wanted the lead, but only because I thought it was cool. In both cases, I was annoyed, but having good relationships with my directors we talked through the mist that was shrouding my prima donna of a mind. The director’s both told me that they cast me where I was because it was so easy for narration to become hackneyed and boring and I could pull off talking directly to the audience. Anyone could play those leads, (my apologies to those leads if you are reading this, but it’s been twenty some odd years so….) but not everyone could pull of the copious memorization and stage presence to be a narrator or chorus.
Now it’s very possible that my directors were just trying to appease me. But the lesson is what’s important. If I am not the center of the universe, am I okay with that? Can I be content with what God has given me to do? Can I be minor player in a show that transcends the silliness of the ME? I’m reminded viscerally of the lyric from the Pink Floyd tune, I Wish You Were Here:
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war,
For a lead role in a cage?
Be where you are today. God loves you, that’s so true, and He has a plan that is for yours and His best interests. But be content with His plan. Learn to love even when there is no hope of love returned. Learn to bring healing when there is no way for the wound to be healed. We are not the Center, but we can be like Him. We can live in Him. We no longer have to be caged by our own selfishness.