Monday, October 20, 2008

"Lemon" Laws?

I named this blog SpiritualLemons because that’s the name of my first book, a collection of stories about biblical women from both testaments of the bible, stories that use ancient material to expose contemporary issues.
A “lemon”, besides being a sour fruit in its own right, is some thing not quite up to standard, a failure. We have lemon laws about such things, like the Ford Edsel, a car that just couldn’t be driven. It was a “lemon” and therefore you could turn it in and get your money back.
But a spiritual lemon is good, not sweet but good. It adds zest to your soul. You never ever make lemonade out of spiritual lemons! (A better but not the best alternative came on a card: "Remember when life hands you lemons...Tuck 'em, inside your bra! Couldn't hurt. Might help!")
Better than boob-enhancing is loving your spiritual lemons. They are feelings or thoughts about which you feel ashamed. Shame itself is a spiritual lemon, so are blue moods, temper, anxiety, anger, being a closet wimp, death, guffawing at just the wrong moment, and more.
Such feelings common to us all, feelings we sometimes hide because church and society label them unacceptable and worse, non-spiritual.
Spiritual lemons are, however, nothing to hide, because if you have courage enough to befriend your “lemons” you will find both divine grace and spiritual wholeness.
I went to a writing workshop once years ago, led by the late author, Madeleine L’Engle. She told us to think of someone in the bible who might be angry and write his or her story. I thought of the poor little snake in the biblical Garden of Eden story in Genesis. I thought what a cosmic bad rap the snake got and how afraid my mother would screech and run at the sight of a mere garden snake. I thought how furious I'd be if I were that snake, to be scapegoated for the whole human mess, for bringing death and mortality into the world, to be blamed for all time for one innocent little half-truth: you won't die if you eat of the tree. Adam and Eve grabbed onto the snake's tempting words as Eve grabbed hold of the "forbidden fruit." No apple mentioned by the way. I felt angry for Eve too and angry at this He-God throwing curses around. I suddenly wondered if there were a smidgeon of divine grace for this slithery creature—once a symbol of generativity.
So I wrote about the aging female snake complaining to her creator. In writing I remembered a time when a man I was dating once told me I was sexy. I thought that complimentary until he went on to tell me I was the “occasion of his sin.” If it weren’t for me he’d be pure and lust-free? Shame rushed through me like a tip-of-toe-to-top-of-head blush and turned into a curse.
"Grace for the Snake" became a story in "Spiritual Lemons." You’ll have to read it to see what happens between the snake and the Almighty, but for me I found blessing not curse in my own sexual shame.
Ever notice how lovely naked winter trees are? Stripped of their leafy dress they are unashamed and you can see their true shape.