The path to God takes many forms. St. Francis courted Lady Poverty, early monks went for suffering (self-flogging and other such pleasantries), many aspirants fast, and yogis retire to their caves for years of silence and seclusion.

Well, I’ve got one that, as far as I know, hasn’t yet made the list. But it should, it really should. It’s the Path to God through Embarrassment.

Wait — don’t touch that mouse until I explain.

You see the photo here? This is Joseph, as happy as can be, sitting at Starbucks and just starting into his caramel apple cider.

Earlier I’d picked him up from school and explained that I needed to stop at the grocery store. Sometimes this brings a storm of protest, as the sensitive boy has had enough of people and needs to lie low. But this time he readily agreed, and off we went.

I marveled at his ready agreement, and then I marveled still more when he started singing to a new CD I’d bought. He never sings along to music, so this indicated a surge in development. Yippee! I thought. Life is good. Then, instead of wanting to go home, he asked to go to Starbucks afterward! Life is great, I thought.

We interrupt this narrative to state that people with autism often have a very difficult time when they make a mistake. I have no idea why. Joseph has gotten better about his goof-ups through the years, but we still deal with it.

Back to Starbucks. This happy photo was taken mere seconds before the top fell off of Joseph’s cup, spilling a full glass of warm, gooey caramel apple cider all over my purse and all over the floor.

Joseph started to yell. Extremely upset, he continued to yell. As he took in the full extent of what had occurred, the volume increased to full-blast yelling.

And then it happened:

Everyone Looked.

Hanging around Joseph, it is not such a rare occurrence to have Everyone Look. It happens maybe once every two or three weeks. You’d think I’d get used to it.

But here’s the thing. A few decades ago, I longed to be good friends with a woman I knew. She, however, scorned my initial attempts at friendship. It was only much later, when we’d managed to actually become good friends, that she confessed her reasons for putting me off: she thought I was too together.  I always looked composed, I dressed nicely, I was fit, and — this was the example she used — I could bring a batch of homemade cookies to a party and not eat even a single one.

(What she didn’t know was that, harboring an eating disorder in secret, I’d already helped myself to the entire batch of cookies that didn’t make it to the party. Beware of people who seem all together.)

This, ladies and gentlemen, this is what Joseph brings to me: a general announcement that neither he, nor I, is all together. And, since we live in a small town, you can’t go anywhere without running into someone you know. At Starbucks today, we saw Andi and her father from swim class, as well as that nice man who takes his kid to the same school as Joseph and who always says hello to me.

They were part of the Everyone who Looked. Add three more people to the list of those I know who are now absolutely certain that I am not all together.

Isn’t this great? Can you see how God lies at the end of the Path to Embarrassment? Who needs to fast or pray or self-flagellate or go into silence when she has Everyone Looking at her?

This morning, in my meditation, I had just finished my preparatory techniques and was letting go into stillness when I noticed that an insect had bitten my thumb. I got that itchy, stinging sensation and I noticed the irony. What do I do now, I wondered, put my attention where it wants to go, on my painful thumb, or try to draw my energy back into the stillness?  Ultimately I had to settle for a little of each.

And so it is. God lies in the embarrassment, God lies in the developmental surges, and God most especially lies in the ego having no pride left to hide behind.

Life is good. Life is definitely good.

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