Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My religious vocation

Iris married to get away from home. I don’t think this happens as much as it used to when I was in my teens and early twenties, but forty years ago it was a respectable method of jumping from one leg-hold trap to another.

He was a mean son-of-a-bitch, Iris’s first husband, although she didn’t know it at the time she married him. He wasn’t her big love. Her big love was a soldier who’d been shipped overseas before Iris met husband number one.

Big Love came back to town after Iris discovered that her marriage was as much a soul-crushing, depressing fate as life at home had been. She had a brief affair with her soldier. There was a child. And Iris, until a year or so ago – the child a full-grown woman now - never told anyone who her first daughter’s father was.

A year ago, she told me. She didn’t come right out and say it. She tip-toed around it and whistled shakily by it and sketched in details of her history. She’s an evangelical Christian, so this kind of secret “sin” is a not a matter of small consequence to her. I listened, knowing exactly where the story was heading. Her voice was strangled and small, as if what she was about to tell me would bring a universe of punishment crashing down on her, as if she were the mythological Eve – responsible for a sin that would forever burden humankind.

Me, I claim to be of Lilith’s line. I'm just not having that other story. So I make a dandy priestess.

I meander into remembrance of this as I'm talking to Weedy tonight and we figure out that this is a function I serve for Iris. For Iris, who is a truly good, wise soul and shining light, I am part friend and part confessor. Iris also tells me lesser sins. She has a temper, which she occasionally loses. She swears, after promising not to because it is not pleasing to the Lord.

I tell her, “You were pissed. You have the right to be pissed when you’re treated badly. Just acknowledge it and move on. Besides, there’s no point in pretending to be loving and forgiving if you don’t feel it. You know perfectly well that God knows exactly what you feel. And besides, check your bible. There’s a long respectable history of people yelling at God.”

Iris, whose nature doesn't incline towards hypocrisy or trying to pull a fast one on herself or the Lord, is comforted by this analysis.

Bless me, Linda, for I have sinned.

Go my child and sin only when you really must. And don’t apologize when you do it either because you’re a damn sight better human being than most of us, Iris m’dear, me included.

And PS – loving someone or wanting to be loved is never a sin.