Betty Sue Stephens
in my hands
a mutt they called her
Betty Sue Stephens
sings every individual
that makes the wave
Betty Sue Stephens
All great spiritual teachers
Give something up.
They know that the only way
To free up something better
Is to die to the old way.
“He had to be mean to save him;
Harry belonged in the woods.”
~ Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock, after watching a scene from “Harry and the Hendersons”
with no guarantees
His eyes sparkle
he’s enthroned me in his heart
just under the Godhead
His angels speak my name
he’s a solitary man
he lets me go
I have freedom to be out and about
freedom that binds me to him
lets me do what I choose
and when I choose to leave home
with a man
for real fun
I choose him
If you want to be kind
If you want to help others
If you want to be vulnerable
If you want to love unconditionally
if you want to push away
If you want to punish
if you want to say one thing and do another
if you want to find your true self
love your brother
If you want to be forgiven
If you’re going to care
If you want to follow all the rules
be a Pharisee
If you want eternal life
then come and follow Me
Yesterday I took my violin to church… or rather, I made a trip back into the house after getting into my car the first time, and I grabbed my violin. I was about to take off, when I stopped again and ran back in to pick up my rosin. The weather was unseasonably moderate for August, so I had no fears about leaving the instrument in a hot car. I didn’t know why I wanted it with me – I just did.
After service was over, classes were starting. I ran into my good friend in the lobby, and she and I talked about the fact that our class leader was on vacation and there was an open plan for what we would do that morning. I mentioned the violin, and she said to bring it in and play it.
I did. It’s a new violin for me, and a very old one at that. Very inexpensive. Very beautiful sounding to me. I played a Celtic piece, and some hymns. By the time class was over, I had made new connections in ways I had not previously enjoyed. I met and talked with a friendly couple and their sons and made a new friend that I can attend music events with, all by sublimating a need to connect with others through conversation into my music. My music became the avenue through which communication was opened.
Why did I listen to that internal voice? I am a teacher. I know how to teach, and how to play. But this violin — one that my son has worked on — it has an expansive sound. I have an expansive sound. I am listening to the eternal voice of love in the present moment. My own voice – often muted in the past, shy, afraid — is changing. I am changing, and art imitates life.
This is my understanding of what sublimation is: When one is lacking in one area, rather than bemoaning that fact, which is a product of the circumstantial will of God, we may deal with it “…by directing the activities of the personality to some altruistic task which is (a) of use to the community, (b) satisfying to the self, and (c) in harmony with that self’s ideals.” In The Will of God, Weatherhead explains that under these three conditions, sublimation is an action that channels one need, due to lack in one area of life, into the energy of an outlet that can be used by God to bring about the fulfillment of his ultimate will. In other words, it takes and transmutes the results of the circumstantial will of God into something that is higher, better, and that might not have flowered into a beautiful result if the original circumstances had been more ideal.
So last night, I thought about how much I enjoy playing violin in nursing homes. There are still some areas of lack and loss in my life that I feel deeply; there are circumstances for which I can do nothing. But what I do know is that the last time I played at a nursing home, an elderly man told me he loved me. He didn’t know me, had never met me, and had no idea about the good or bad traits that he might otherwise have sensed about me, through a filtered perspective. Yet, as I’ve experienced many times before, there is an open, beautiful quality in these homes that is not possible anywhere else. And the blesser and the blessed often get confused as to who it is that is doing the what. Sublimation for me, is playing in the homes and feeling a sense of free and open love. Maybe sublimation is even not knowing why, where, or who I will be playing for. It is just being ready.
(Thanks, Dad, for keeping this book in your library. I’ll bet you never knew it was for me.)
When life hands you a lemon, realize that this is part of the circumstantial will of God.
Making lemonade entails using creativity. Instead of wasting time being angry or asking God why (all of which are perfectly understandable states for humans to fall into) we can choose to use our energy, transmuting evil into good.
In The Will of God, Leslie D. Weatherhead relates that there are two parts to the circumstantial will of God, which will affect us due to our free will and the oneness that we share as brothers and sisters on the planet. A natural sense of pain, through the physical body or emotional states, shows up most commonly, taking the forefront of our attention. Our first inclination to look at God and ask why in these moments is as seemingly appropriate as a child’s cries to a parent, “If you are good, then why am I in pain?” This in an instinctual response to life when dealing with the Will in less than ideal situations.
It is the spiritual sense (the second part of God’s circumstantial will) that allows us to be creative in response. “Christ did not just submit to this dread event of the Crucifixion with what we miscall ‘resignation,'” states Weatherhead, “He took hold of the situation. Given those circumstances which evil had produced, it was also God’s will that Jesus should not just die like a trapped animal, but that he should so react to evil, positively and creatively, as to wrest good out of evil circumstances… In other words, by doing the circumstantial will of God we open up the way to God’s ultimate triumph with no loss of anything of value to ourselves.”
There is no loss of anything of value. This is a powerful statement! God’s will is to help each person to be “…a complete and integrated personality in union with himself.” In order to deal with lack or with pain in the physical sense, a beautiful interdependency with others, in creativity, will be the modality through which God’s intentional will may occur. So the ultimate union with others/union with God comes about after a time of struggle with others/free will/self. It is through our humanity that we find suffering, but it is also through our humanity that we devise answers. We need both independence and community to make our way through. So the creative aspect is achieved through sublimation, which I will cover more in part four.