Which Way to God?
A True Story
By Keith Varnum
“No, I can’t go. They’ll find out!”
And once again—as she had every summer since she left home 15 years ago—she cried.
Tammy missed just sitting on the big front porch of the farmhouse with her grandmother, sipping homemade peppermint tea, counting the five cars that would pass by on the road each lazy afternoon. She dreamed of once again whipping up homemade raspberry ice cream with her grandfather for the evening social at the town hall. She yearned to play with her cousins in the rolling cornfield behind the old goat shed that was their secret clubhouse in their youth.
How did I know all this? Because—as she had every summer at the time of the annual family reunion in Kansas—Tammy shared her childhood joys with me in between deep sobs of loss and longing.
I was envious of all her sweet memories of growing up on a Midwest farm, raised by her two loving grandparents. But she was fraught with despair that she “could never go home again.” And she hadn’t written or spoken with her folks for all these years.
Finally, I’d had enough of this regret and remorse. I implored her, “What could possibly be so terrible about your life that you can’t share with such caring grandparents?”
“If I go, they’ll find out that I’ve left the church!” she bemoaned.
“Well,” I countered, “you’re still the same granddaughter they nurtured from birth. You haven’t changed how you feel about them. Maybe they still feel the same way about you!”
“Yes,” she replied, “they would if I was still faithful to the church. But once they find out that I’ve ‘gone the way of Satan,’ the gap between us would be too wide to bridge.”
I gingerly questioned her certainty, “Perhaps they could see past your different approach to religion. You’re still spiritual.”
“Yes,” she lamented, “but not in their eyes. In their church anyone who wanders from the righteous path of traditional belief becomes the disciple of the devil. I know, I listened to this dogma every day of my childhood.”
“What if it were different now? This is 2010, not 1950.”
Ah, the door was cracked. And Tammy hadn’t shut out the possibility that the situation could conceivable change.
The Prospect of Possibility
Lately, Tammy and I have been playing with the power of possibility. Of allowing room for something new and different to happen in hopelessly stuck situations.
We’re both discovering that if we simply hold the space for the improbable, it sometimes occurs. If we just choose to stay open to the possibility that something “outside the box” might occur, it sometimes does. Even in seemingly intractable situations. Even “against all odds!”
The Journey Home
Inspired by this fresh approach to the desperate situations in her life, Tammy decides to fly to the yearly family reunion in Kansas. After all, she realizes, the pain of rejection there couldn’t be any worse than the angst of one more summer of imagined exile and disapproval. And she was emotionally stronger now and actually felt some real self acceptance for the first time in her life!
Tammy arrives just in time for the shucking of the fresh-picked corn on the back porch of the farmhouse. She screeches and screams in unison with all her cousins, nieces and nephews as they rejoice in her surprise appearance! She’s overwhelmed with the warmth and depth of the heartfelt greeting.
After a spell, she feels a faint tap on her left shoulder. Grandma motions for Tammy to follow her and Grandpa into the house to the front sitting room in which so many of Tammy’s fondest memories dwell. The wayward granddaughter squirms nervously in her favorite seat on the couch in which she’d watched old movies with Grandma. She waits for her aging grandparents to shuffle slowly into the quaint parlor that has been immune to the changes in time and fashion.
Facing the Music
Her folks settle in on either side of her on the divan. Each gently grasps each of her hands. Oh, boy! What’s up with this? A serious talking to, no doubt. Her grandparents only invoked this hand ritual when the most grave issues were about to be discussed. Usually she had transgressed in some way. Usually this routine indicated she’d broken some rule. Gone far astray.
Grandma Ellen patted Tammy’s hand and softly cleared her throat. Tammy braced herself for the worst.
“Tammy, your grandpa and I just want you to know that whatever way you have found God is completely fine with us. We’re so happy for you, my child.”
With an audible gasp of relief, Tammy broke into tears—tears of joy!
Her exultant joy was only slightly muted with the regret that she’d kept herself away from such love for so many years.
Where in your life could you be more open to the possibility of change?
Who are you selling short in regard to their ability to change, to be flexible, or to love beyond all reason?