Laurie and I couldn’t find a decent place to stay so we moved on to Playa del Carmen, about an hour south by taxi from Cancun. A Craigslist post from a expat American from Georgia named Jason landed us in a budget-stretching one bedroom, ten minutes from the beach, with a rooftop pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the distant island of Cozumel. Sound like paradise? We needed the pool for Laurie’s physical therapy and the view of the Caribbean Sea to keep her spirits up, at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
But to keep this from sounding like your typical social media blog, which would normally contain the top five greatest hits of the week and none of the flops, one of our laptops apparently picked up a virus and is rendered useless until we can find a tech. guy, (Joseph, where are you?). Laurie temporarily had her wheelchair stolen at Walmart, she caught the flu from a coughing doctor in ICU, hospital and physical therapy bills threaten to rob our nest egg unless we get reimbursed, even though we’re trying to trust God, we have fears around Laurie’s recovery. We’re not super-saints by any stretch, just two older people learning daily to stay in the moment and trust the One who has never let us down, even when sometimes it appears that He has.
I’m reading Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who as a five-year-old Somali girl, endured compulsory female genital mutilation, and as a teenaged girl escaped marriage to a man she barely knew by fleeing her African home and obtaining asylum in Holland. She began doubting the righteousness of her religion when she first learned what the Quran meant when it said to “wage war on the unbelievers,” that it wasn’t just referring to the seventh century battles of Uhud and Badr, but that the massacre of September 11 was also fully justified by Allah and the Prophet. She said most Muslims don’t study much theology and rarely read the Quran, which is taught to them in Arabic, which few Muslims understand. So, when the people are told Islam is a religion of peace, they take it at face value from their leaders, who are deemed infallible.
I thought of how the history of Catholicism is similar in one way. For 1,000 years, commonly referred to as the “Dark Ages,” the Bible was locked away in the Latin language where only the elite could read it. As a kid growing up in a strict Catholic home, I won’t say we were discouraged from reading our Bibles, but we were told that only the priest could properly interpret it, and so, although we had a huge family Bible, complete with full-page pictures, it was never actually read, even once. So, we also just took “truth” at face value from our leaders. And since the Pope was “infallible,” you couldn’t argue with God.
In the “heavy-shepherding” Christian cult Laurie and I were a part of for thirty years, there were also some similarities to the above. Biblical “truth” was filtered through the interpretations of the esteemed leaders. I believe for the most part, they were sincere, or is that being too kind? We used to joke about being “brainwashed,” and our response was, “well, my brain needed to be washed,” which it certainly did. Our former leaders had their own brand of “infallibility,” and you would be labeled suspect if you questioned it. Case in point: During a particular teaching session, one of the top pastors taught that Samson, since he had ultimately committed suicide, had gone to hell. When someone in the congregation timidly asked how one of the “Heroes of Faith” from Hebrews 11 could end up in hell, he was met with a reddened face and an angry “stare of death.” Contradiction was as the sin of rebellion—cross that line at your own peril. The leaders ruled liked Old Testament kings.
Laurie is able to leave our apartment, go up the elevator, climb the five steps to the roof level, and get into the pool for a swim, all without her wheelchair. Of course, that means inching along in a tight hug with me, and more than once we’ve been told to get a room. She has always wanted me to take dance lessons with her, and so this may be her answer. People here have been extremely helpful—special mention to an expat named Paul from Ottawa, Canada, who always seems to be around when we need a little extra lift into the pool.
We also found another excellent church last Sunday here in Playa. Other than the twenty-three steps to the second floor, sandwiched in between four brawny men from the congregation—these men took their jobs very seriously, no one was falling on their watch, it was good, simple worship and a biblical, well-prepared teaching with good revelation—we’ve found our church home.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.