Wednesday, July 25, 2012

LOOKING BACK... Individual Life Is An Intricate Plan. July 24, 2012

I hope this will  be a crisp essay  of how life, viewed from its later years, appears to have  evolved from a rather straight forward and not that complicated 'plan.' Such a 'plan' would be unique for each person but nothing totally new happens with any of us. It is all very human. Obviously if my life is the unfolding of a plan I had no consciousness of it at first. And only hints that some 'plan' was going on began to be barely conscious as I reached midlife. After some strongly influencing and unexpected midlife events I became significantly more aware that something was happening which , though it called for all my efforts and resources, was a plan; a 'plan', in my overall best interest, that at some basic level nothing could interfere with.

Part of my motivation to write this description is that I suspect that such a 'plan of life' is typically human and that any self reflecting person can likely eventually find significant meaning to their life's experience by becoming more conscious of this 'life  plan' phenomenon.
Is There An Unconscious Plan That Informs Our life?

I will mention only a few of the important pieces that such a life plan for me has had which now seem essential. There are so many pieces I will not mention, for in a way every single moment and happening is essential to make any life what it ends up being. Nothing will seem to have been a mistake or 'only' a coincidence when the final chapter is finished and the picture is complete. Each of our lives will potentially become to us like a creative work of art that carries the most poignant personal meaning we could imagine.

First I seem to have been born with a dream. I did not manufacture it. My formal religion or education did not overtly instruct me to have such a dream. But basically that dream for me was that 'the highest I could aspire for in a successful life would be to live as large a part of it as possible in intimate monogamous relationship with the right or at least right kind of woman.' I was vaguely aware of this as I reached puberty. I was born the far youngest of seven brothers. My mother died suddenly two days before my 10th birthday.
This negatively interpreted event probably offers some explanation for my specific need and 'dream for my life', the dynamics of which I would experience as I transcended that otherwise painful trauma. I will not go into how I see that now as a necessary piece of my 'life plan.' I could not have told someone objectively what the dream for my life was in those earlier years but looking back it clearly was to experience such an ongoing intimate love relationship. Such a dream is what I thought or mused about when my mind would wonder. I knew it was something far more than only sexual closeness that I yearned for. So considering this 'dream for my life', now I can see how every main life event , altercation and personal encounter was designed to teach me more about what was necessary for me to come closer to realizing such a 'dream for my life.'
Rufus Hibbett And Seven Sons @ 1974

I had some romantic involvement with young female friends from grade school through high school and to this day I can see how each of them was a very special learning experience for me, showing me what aspects of femininity I highly valued and that resonated with the dream I carried. I became interested enough by my first year of college to fully fall in love and get married. I cannot begin to even touch on how my 35 year marriage with Beverly was a virtual learning laboratory for me. It led me to heights of yearning and longing for intimacy and also to many of the typical American disappointments of what a long term marriage brings.
Daddy And Some Sons Soon After Our Mother Died... 1953

 I learned the meaning of intimate friendship that supports and cares no matter how difficult and challenging the problems that either friend faces. I experienced the challenge of attempting to communicate with a life companion at both the levels of rich harmony and of most painful differences. I learned the great joy of being a father of three children who were planned for, especially by Beverly. I learned, as father and husband, what it meant to value some other humans enough that if life required I would unhesitatingly give my own life for the furtherance of theirs. My life did not require that sacrifice but instead came to insist that I discover much more about my own deeper personality and how it would develop as I kept following the dream and its initially unconscious plan for me. Beverly and I discovered  gradually that our love for each other did not potentially include all that either of us had dreamed of. I think we lived for more than 20 years expecting that an unmanipulated and needed change would happen that would make of our marriage all that love could possibly bring. We remained best friends to the end even though the last five years of her life we were divorced. So a picture emerges that the  fulfillment of my original dream shows that such a dream's realization does not just drop into ones lap but was requiring me to learn many lessons in many areas of personal and social  life.
Bev And Me

I left dental school after one quarter and after being married for six months to enter formal ministry preparation. I could never explain even to myself why I made that change of directions. It felt like it had much to do with Beverly's needs and our relationship, that she would have greater attraction to me as a preacher. This was likely my perception more than it was hers. I describe this for it seems that if I had I married someone different I likely would not have made that change of career direction. So retrospectively I married just such a woman whose impact on me would help bring this essential unexpected and irrational change about. I now see it was essential to the 'dream' that I would need to explore the religious depths and meanings of  intimate love my dream had given me a glimpse of . After all religion of nearly every variety says that love is the greatest thing to happen in life. So I see my first 18 years of ministry as taking me as far as my own religious heritage could in rational religious knowledge and Biblical understanding that related to my life's dream.

Then came the time that I would need to explore what has been learned by humans of my culture and others regarding the 'study of the soul' which is the literal meaning of psychology. This was initiated by anther unanticipated turn. I, with the encouragement of a respected church deacon,  enrolled in the Clinical Pastoral Education program at the local Catholic Hospital and later in the University's Master's program in Human Development Counseling. So I began a journey that helped me to begin a rather thorough exploration of the inner landscape of my mind and heart. The writings of Carl Jung eventually became an important resource for this part of  my 'plan.'  I began what was to become a consciously chosen spiritual development process. This part of the unfolding 'plan' was also always keeping me in touch with ordinary struggling humans at a significantly heart level through pastoral care and counseling primarily within my  Church of Christ ,and later United Church of Christ and Presbyterian(USA), communities.

These years I carried a feeling I was onto something important and central to life, not only my own but to persons in general. But I assumed that whatever happened and however intimate love might come closer to realization, it would be within the context of my own religious heritage. I would never have anticipated  I would become disconnected from my Church of Christ strong roots. But another significant transition developed. It involved me reaching serious and more conscious inner conflicts with some of the teachings of my religious heritage as well as losing a power struggle in my own church with its all-male leadership. This was one of the most tragic things my family experienced due to my life's path as the necessary 'plan' of the 'dream' unfolded.
Jim The Preacher For 38 Years

After a sad formal break with the Church of Christ the exact needed forces, just when needed, came into play which led me first to a 'liberal' seminary in Chicago. Here   for six weeks I was able to discover that the theology and Biblical perspectives I had been developing in my own ministry were very much what was being understood and taught as the more 'liberal' kind of Protestant Christianity. I had discovered a whole new world  which I needed to know more about and interact with. The timing of this, retrospectively, was just as it had to be. I managed  to find exactly the important and unlikely purpose of those specific six weeks following the sad loss of  my Springfield ministry in in May of 1984. So my life had taken a sudden major expansion. If ever I have experienced ' when one door shuts another opens', it was during this sequence of events. And there would be more to follow. Now I was owning my connection to the history of a much broader meaning of the Christian story than just to my original more conservative and localized heritage. The 'plan' to follow my dream insisted I do a thorough search of the meaning of how the broadest Christian story might affect the foundation of an intimate love life.

It was obvious  I was going to have to find some kind of employment to support my family. At the end of six weeks  I had no responsible choice but to leave the wonderfully stimulating and supportive seminary environment. I had been granted a full scholarship to culminate in a Dr.of Ministry degree in pastoral counseling. (This had been also my totally unplanned and first strong contact with the United Church of Christ. I had no inclination to become affiliated with the UCC at that time. I only was interested in the kind of ministry education I might be able to receive there. The scholarship they awarded me had no strings of my becoming a UCC person attached to it.) Then out of the blue I found myself headed to Houston, TX  for  family  economic survival as a life insurance salesman.  I was informed of this job opportunity  by a Chicago Theological Seminary student. In Houston for six months consecutively I made far more money than I had ever made in my life. I sensed to some extent that this could not be happening by my ego strength skills alone.  I was the top sales person  of  20 four of these six months. A strong hint of some kind of 'plan' beyond any conscious explanation was unfolding before my eyes.

The first three of those months I also had another most unexpected , and retrospectively as dangerous as it was gracious, experience that now I can see was essential in my learning curve as I continued to follow the still quite unconscious plan for my life. I was welcomed to stay temporarily with a Church of Christ family we had known in Springfield. I became sort of a temporary 'uncle' family member during these months getting better acquainted with who I will call Nancy and Tom and their their two young daughters. They lived in a very nice new home in Houston. A  platonic friendship developed with Nancy centered around, during my not frequent job-free moments, helping with household chores and  projects and interacting with the children. This development proved to be what was to no doubt serve the purpose of awakening the part of my inner world which Carl Jung calls the anima function. He said (paraphrasing), “As accepting ones shadow is the apprentice work of spiritual development, direct awareness of and interaction with the inner feminine anima is the master work of such development for a man.” I later realized that I had experienced a significant appreciative friendship with Nancy. But only after I ceased my time with this family and was living alone did I begin to have the experiences that would acquaint me directly with my inner anima function. Without a doubt having such a friendship with a woman at just the right time was an essential experience in 'the plan' to awaken me to the anima aspect of my personality. I'm confident that Jung's thought would imply that such a discovery of the anima cannot happen but by some such similar way of nature and Spirit. Obviously none of this effect was Nancy's conscious intention any more than I was looking for a way for my anima function to become more conscious. She was  being a gracious host and supportive friend and I was seeking to be an appreciative and helpful guest.
My Houston Apartment

Later the most intense spiritual/psychological experiences I have ever had  included  what I can only describe as 'visions' and as a strong sense of the 'ecstatic' and 'miracle'.* This began mid August 1985 and it all centered around directly experiencing the 'anima' and led me to be confident  I had reached a point of understanding  what it would be like and the attitude I would need  to live in the  intimacy which my life dream had imaged. This seemed to be the final learning that I needed. I expected as I returned to my family after being away for much of a  year that it would be in my marriage that the dream would now be fulfilled. Unfortunately it did not work out that this would be the case for Beverly and me. We were both 'out of the blue without applying' called and  hired at that time for  new attractive teaching positions near our home but  we also had to begin painfully facing that our longed for  relationship was not going to develop for us. Which as with any reasonable and caring couple,  was our strong mutual desire.

Let me explain in more detail the 'vision-like' experience.  I was becoming very much conscious of what my life long dream had been and I could begin to see the things above that had contributed to my necessary learning. I believed I was now capable of and prepared for 'seeing' an intimate companion through the eyes of my anima*  aspect. I reasoned that the kind of woman that I had either actually 'seen' in Nancy, or more likely had perhaps projected onto her , would be the kind of feminine companionship I would eventually be able to enjoy. I did not realize the kind of meaning the friendship and the quality of learning I had drawn from the very simple and routine interactions with Nancy had for me until many months after I had left staying with her family. She had apparently served as another feminine model experience, after my mother, Beverly and the few other women I had been closely influenced by, to bring me to the moment when I would become conscious of the feminine inner 'anima' factor. (This factor among other things creates in a Western mind a very high appreciation and valuing of the feminine principle of life and for real women in general.) This was like a 'miraculous' and ecstatic breakthrough in consciousness that was initiated by 'vision like' experiences. This was a solitary experience that began  suddenly on the streets of North West Houston near, where roughly three months before, I had last permanently lived alone in a nice apartment complex. This is  the most important personal psychological and spiritual discovery of my  life. It was a discovery of a most unexpected part of my inner self and Sacred reality. I was fortunate to have some knowledge of the writings of Carl Jung about such possibilities and also a significant acquaintance with the most unusual four thousand year old ancient Chinese work named the 'I Ching' or 'book of changes.' These proved to be tools that were fully essential for me to survive these kinds of intense psychological/spiritual experiences which threaten to overwhelm even the strongest, yet comparatively fragile, human ego. These helped me to see my more accustomed  Biblical resources with  a fresh comprehension and a more applicable  and nuanced perspective.

In contrast to concluding that my life dream was about ready to materialize the actuality was that no such woman was to yet enter my life at all. But instead I would be required by 'the plan' to enter another 20 plus years of public ministry as a pastor and hospital chaplain, family/children counselor and teacher for high risk high school freshmen. All during this labor which for the most part was the kind of work that suits my nature, as compared to selling insurance, I was undergoing a consciousness raising and affirmation regrading the original life dream and all that I had learned in preparation, including the anima experience, of such a dream being potentially realized in my outer life.

Beverly died three years ago when breast cancer returned. She was working an active  full load six weeks before she died. I know she would not have wanted any longer an illness, away from the joys of her life which  were many. Our three children have been  brightest stars in our sky of life. Each of them in a totally unique way has met  a deep and profound need in my developing life. We should never look on others as there to meet our needs but somehow those closest do that anyway. I could never have imagined even till these three were grown how specific and unexpected  purpose they each have had for me, What a precious learning experience each of them has been. And it was all by their simply being who they are and that  their life is(as if planned) connected to mine in this father-child role we continue to play out.  Gradually these roles have become mutual and I think best described as friendships.

Four years ago it became time for me to resign from church related pastoral ministry. I could not help but wonder if this would also be the  time of transition to the fulfilling of the life dream plan? Instead I discovered that I was required to take the time and energy to attempt to describe what I have experienced and learned over the past thirty years. And what I can see now has been my effort to follow after the dream that was originally planted in my heart. This period first became a time of intense focus on capturing, reporting and reflecting on nightly dreams and followed by  the creation of a blog project for the past 13 months and sharing it with my small number of face book friends. The public blog  pretty much details the story in dreams and short essays that I have outlined above.

Brent, Sheri And Ryan-Such Sweet Joys To Bev And Me
Now I am 68 years old and will attend my high school 50th reunion in my native Florence, AL this weekend. Do I still live with a consciousness of the same dream and all that seems to have been needed for me to learn to be even equipped to live out such a dream? The answer is most assuredly yes. But do I live with any demand, as I have at times in my adult life, that life or God give me the outer life realization of the dream which I sense, in some incomprehensible way, was  placed placed in me originally. No, I definitely do not. We have all heard the wisdom statement which says the 'trip is far more important than the destination.' Or we might say, 'To faithfully follow the quest is far more important than its literal  accomplishment.' I am now resolved that I am likely to never experience my life dream and initially 'unconscious plan' in my outer every day life. But in a very true and real way I have been experiencing it inwardly throughout the whole trip. I have been a 'man deeply in love.' I would not change a thing now and I think I can with reasonable grace and much thanksgiving participate and enjoy whatever measure of love comes to me in this last phase of life. After all it seems to have pretty much been planned out from the time my life began. And if I had to guess I would say that  'I'  somehow , at some level which only religion might speak of, had a strong hand in my life plan and the dream that it insisted I follow.

It is not surprising that two of my all time favorite songs are : 'The Impossible Dream' also called 'The Quest'
and 'You'll Never Walk Alone.'

*The reader may be interested in the blog post: 'God, Man, Woman And Love'....

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