Aisle Of Wit

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Nearer To Gods Are Me

A year ago we were in the deep throes of a pandemic lockdown and isolation.  Personally, I was mired in the additional challenges of lack of work, financial uncertainty and an uncertain living situation that was only beginning to reach the tsunami level of a storm that was soon to boil over.  But one year ago today, I had the most intimate moment of my life that occurred only hours before said storm began.

My beautiful ex-roommate, who I still cannot describe fully in these posts, revealed that impossible as it was for me to comprehend, she too had struggles and challenges in her life, mirroring mine in the degree of personal pain and trauma.  While I continued to lament about the physical issues that nearly left me dead eleven months prior, she ordered me into our garage where she showed me a bedpan hidden behind a couple of foot lockers filled with her modeling memorabilia.  “That was mine”, she confessed.  “A year before you, I spent Christmas by myself in a hospital bed in the very living room you love so much.  That bedpan was often full of shit which I had to have a visiting nurse come in once a day to clean.  I literally laid here smelling my own shit.  I cleaned up mine.  Don’t you dare tell me you can’t clean up yours”.

I sat dumbfounded as she described how she had totaled her car on a rainy night in December 2018, leaving her with broken bones and scars which threatened her very existence.  When someone makes a living as a model, these kinds of things matter.  She described lying in agony while her support system enjoyed Christmas 2000 miles away, her friends too preoccupied to even check in on her.  Her physical pain subsided, her emotional pain festered.  I asked–“How did you snap out of it?”.  She winked and said, “Keep an eye out in your e-mail for an answer”.

A few hours later I got an invite for a zoom call for an outreach from The Well.  The Well is an outreach program organized by a prayer center that is the headquarters for a charasmatic movement called the Pasadena International House of Prayer (PiHOP). According to its website, its goal is to provide a place for Christians from around the region to gather to cultivate intimacy with Christ. On top of the affirmation of Apostles’ Creed, the PIHOP believes in prophetic prayer and healing.

Now as we know, I was born as and still identify as Jewish.  Years ago I worked for a company owned by Pat Robertson.  I once saw famous televangelists roast Dr. Robertson  like Dean Martin’s friends did, telling off-color jokes to a private audience.  My skepticism about Christ had been decades in the making.  As my ex-roommate soon explained, “I may not be Jewish, but my background hardly made me a candidate for saving.  But when you get a wake-up call from destiny, you open yourself up to options.  It helped save me.  I’d like to offer it to you”.

I thought about my hospitalization and my genuine fears about my own mortality when I learned just how close to dying I had been.  During my recovery several priests and people of faith held my hand and listened to my panicked relating of fever dreams where I believed I heard from G-d himself I had a pre-determined date to die.  They listened, fed me ice chips, and prayed passionately for my recovery.  The rabbi on call?  Five minutes of a scripted benediction, then a dismissive barucha before he moved on to a wealthy donor in the room next door.  I told my beautiful cohabitant, “Yes, I’ll take you up on the offer”.

One year ago yesterday the Zoom call came in, she sat on my bed as I sat in front of my laptop.  Three earnest congregants came across my screen, each offering me insight and hope and the reassurance that G-d truly loved me, and that there was a reason I did not die.  This beautiful person held my hand, her soft fingers stroking mine, while she watched me open up to a love even greater than the one I wanted so much from her.  I listened.  I was transformed.  Eighteen of the most healing minutes of my life.

At the end of the Zoom I was reminded that as they were a place of faith despite the bans that had closed every synogauge at the time they were open for socially distanced, in-person worship in the coming weeks.  I could drive a few miles and feel the power of prayer in person if I could open myself up to another concept of G-d.  I expressed my concern to my friend (as she was at the time) and she said. “Look, G-d didn’t exclude you or me from receiving this, and I am hardly a “Jesus freak”.  But this is what got me through my challenges,   It’s free.  What do you have to lose by simply going to listen?”

I couldn’t say no to logic like that delivered through the most beautiful face I had yet to see.  I went for several weeks afterwards, not knowing a word of the hymns its attendees so passionately sung.  She never went with me as our relationship had disintegrated by then, but every time I went to listen I remembered how incredible it felt to see those warm faces on my laptop screen and how delicate her fingers felt in my trembling hand as she sensed I was, in a way, being reborn.

As the year evolved so too did my views.  I later embraced an alternative form of Judaism that incorporates the belief in Jesus as a loving son of God that rewards those that believe, rather than demand prostration and penance for committing sins.  Once I learned of such a temple existing locally, which had just reopened to the public, I chose that as my house of worship.  Even when I was married, I rarely attended synogauge as an adult.  I went on the High Holy Days more out of obligation than devotion.  Now I go because I genuinely believe, and, bluntly, it’s still free, too.

A couple of weeks after I had found a new place to live I discovered a video file on my phone.  It turned out that the camera that was supposed to capture my new Zoom friends had been turned the other way, and it was focused on her the entire time.  I saw her stroking my hand, her expressive face smiling at our mutual friend who sat with his dog across from her and her gorgeous eyes welling up in genuine tears as she saw my own expression of awe come over me.  For as provocative as many of her professional videos are, this one was far and away the most emotionally arousing of all.  And no one else on Earth has it.

I look at that video often; I listen intently to the spoken words of support her friends imparted and how real her own emotions were while she stroked my hand so–well, lovingly.  I cry often over what never was, but I am eternally grateful for what actually is.  The love of something more powerful than us is compelling.  And it gets me through even more challenging times lately.  It’s possible to embrace love from multiple definitions of God, and to heal your physical and emotional scars interdenominationally.

Thank you, Jesus.  And thank YOU, ex-roomie.  Happy first anniversary to us all.

Until next time….