Tuesday Sr. Wantabee met a patient at the hospital pacing the halls, waiting for her operation at 12:30. She wanted a cigarette but knew that was not possible and was a baptized, confirmed Lutheran turned Buddhist so did not desire prayer but was “open to all the positive energy I can get!” Sr. Wantabee raised her hand and waved blessings her way as she oft does when she brings greetings from Christians in Kenya to Christians in America. We did not pray but a kind of comradery was formed. Thursday Sr. Wantabee checked in on her to see how she was recovering.
Mz. Positive Energy was now antsy in her chair by the bed, waiting to be released and bored to tears with TV. She was ready to go! She had picked up a bacterial infection during her first operation and was hoping this operation would correct the complication of the second operation BUT the infection showed longer than insurance covers after an operation and her work place was all aflap about her possible infecting of the product they worked with and so life was not right. Mostly life was wrong.
Sr. Wantabee moaned and groaned with her about the complications and then leaned against the wall and asked nonchalantly, “Tell me about your journey with Buddhism. I’m curious how you went from Lutheran to Buddhist.” The woman’s whole demeanor relaxed, she started smiling and laughing about how in another city she had found a Temple and three little Buddhist monks and she had chanted and one had given her a mantra and taught her to meditate. She assured Sr. Wantabee that she had read the Bible from cover to cover in search of God, taught youth groups as a college student, and had investigated various churches. Her father had headed to the golf course on Sunday mornings while his wife took the kids to church and was always present to receive the donuts that were brought home. And of course he said those long Thanksgiving prayers to make sure the patient’s food was cold before the “amen.” Her present boyfriend was taking her to one of those huge mega-churches, a “hatch’m, batch’m, match’m and dispatch’m” operation – convert, baptize, marriage, and funerals is the good of a church. In contrast, she preferred the quiet meditation of Buddhism. Prayer is just asking God for stuff. When distraught with the problems of her life, she would call her Christian friends who would tell her she had to pray and wait for God to intervene and do a miracle. As far as she could tell “you need to get your but off your chair and do something.” We bantered back and forth, laughing at her pithy summaries of her perspective on how Christianity functions. Sr. Wantabee agreed that certainly us sinners who make us the church are not the God whom the church worships and that prayer is more than asking. “What do you do with the Jesus person?” she asked. “Ahhh, he’s a good guy!” Whew, we agreed. Sr. Wantabee shared her journey with doubt, TM experience, UCLA class on comparative religions and coming to the conclusion that there is a creator and a creation and the Jesus person is the best explanation of how the seen and unseen are able to communication. Prayer is not just asking but is a form of meditation and centering on the truths of what Jesus said, ignore us silly sinners that can’t make the mark, that’s what this is about. She thought. She agreed she was not the Creator and listened. Sr. Wantabee wished her the best on her journey (and search) and encouraged her to meditate on the truth of Christ’s words and not the sinfulness of Christ’s servants. We parted with a smile and a laugh.
Sr. Wantabee left sad. The monk has taught the patient to realize that every time a car on the highway offended her, it was “an opportunity to practice patience and not a personal insult.” She was better at calming her nerves but did she have the positive energy of knowing she was forgiven and in relationship with the God of the universe who does not treat us as puppets to be manipulated but as his children with whom he walks even on rainy days.