Life is not so much of what happens to us as it is what we make of what happens to us. Well, that’s at least a perspective I would offer my clients in therapy. Recently, my writer’s voice had a much different say in the matter.
I was at church this weekend, celebrating the feast of Saint Adalbert of Edmond at the Benedictine Abbey that bears his name in The Netherlands. For a thousand years now, they celebrate his feast day near his grave—the site of numerous miracles over the centuries. I dear say, I witnessed one on his feast day that I’m still trying to wrap my head around.
Actually, it was quite extraordinary. The outdoor celebration was simply wonderful. There had been threatening, ominous clouds in the background throughout the entire service. Some rain fell just before the Eucharist and it was accompanied with strong gusts of wind. It drew my attention to the Holy Spirit. The beauty of nature by the North Sea was the perfect backdrop for the occasion. Still, it was the finale that topped it all.
Just before the priest delivered the final blessing, three birds made a ruckus in the tree behind the outdoor altar. They then took flight above the congregation. I know to an outsider, it might not seem like much. But it really was special and I could tell by the excitement shown by those around me that others felt it too.
Seconds later, with eyes transfixed on the spectacle of three birds who were now directly overhead, the unthinkable happened. One of the birds had difficulties holding his bowels and pooped.
“If that lands on you, God is sending you a very bad message,” my writer’s voice said.
As usual, the internal commentator was crisp and clear. I braced myself for a possible impact with unspeakable consequences.
In the moment, I went back to an incident that took place more than 10 years ago. I was late for Mass and rushed from the far, rear parking to get into the church. I must have been really late because there was no other stragglers except for a car that was moving slowly through the front lot. He tried to squeeze into a closer parking spot than mine—as if such a boon would have escaped my careful scrutiny—when he suddenly screeched his tires. Evidently, he nicked the car next to his because he then swore up one side of his car and down the other.
“Something bad always happens when I go to church,” he yelled.
“Perhaps you should listen to what God is trying to tell you,” my budding writer’s voice interjected.
There was a moment I feared my outside voice had been the indignant one. By then he was in earshot of me, irate, and clearly ready to take out his pent up frustration on someone. Since he didn’t even bat an eyelash, I was able to clearly identify the culprit behind the remark.
I’m not proud of what bubbled up from inside of me. In fact, I truly believe that we should never throw stones at others. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” Jesus once declared. My closet is full of all all sorts of misgivings for me to ever make such a mistake. Unfortunately, this lesson never fully sunk into my writer’s voice who smugly accompanied me to church that day. Worse, I always knew that there would be some kind of reckoning for it. I just wasn’t prepared for it to be on St. Adalbert’s feast day.
Now, when you are standing on sacred ground where scores of miracles have happened over the centuries and excrement from the newest miracle is heading your way, what kind of meaning is one to take away from the incident? What happened next couldn’t have been further from what I ever expected.
In an instant, there was hearty laughter from a group of a dozen nuns dressed in full black and white regalia. One, or possibly a small group of them, had apparently been pooped on by the bird. Instead of judgment, it brought exuberance. Instead of condemnation, it brought joy. They celebrated the incident with enthusiasm instead of dousing it with scorn.
Honestly, I do not know what to make of the matter. Like I said, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Perhaps life is truly about what we make of the things that happen to us even if my writer’s voice said otherwise.