Monday, September 27, 2010

Deep Down Things

THE world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

~Gerard Manley Hopkins

I’m on a roll. Life has been going well for me lately. This isn’t a problem, per se, but I am starkly aware of my grasping desire to keep things going my way. This seems to mean living life on the surface in accordance with my safe and selfish imagination—I use work and achievement (smeared with toil) and entertainment to keep my soul at bay as it tries to come to life. I’ve been down this road before (have trod, have trod, have trod). It leads to death.

And yet, “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” My truer desire for something deeper and grander always returns—a desire for something better, more difficult, and more beautiful than my way.

As I was reading David Benner again yesterday morning I was struck by the truth in his words, “We will never come to prefer God’s kingdom and will to ours until we meet the Divine in this relationship of love intermixed with wonder… There would be no reason to submit our will to a tame god of our imagination. No god that is merely a projection of our deepest needs and longings is worthy of surrender of our soul. Surrendering to God’s will begins by encountering God’s grandeur. It also involves falling in love with God’s grand plan of restoration of all things. This lies at the heart of God’s will and God’s kingdom.

This put me in mind of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem.

May I be willing to exchange successful surface living for the grandeur of a Kingdom of restoration.  May I give up the god of my imagination for the God of wonder. Oh, morning!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Silence and Soul Cravings

I have just entered into a very busy season of life—maybe busier than any other time in my life. So, what has been on my mind lately is how discipline leads to rest. And beauty. And rightness. And all the things that feed my soul.

My tendency is to let life spin madly on and carry me away, and before I know it I don’t know who I am or where I’m going. But I need silence. And nature. And God. To remember. And discipline leads me there. Discipline (once hated as the end, now cherished as the means) allows me to pay attention to the soft, low sounds that can probe depths to awaken soul cravings. Like the sound of poetry.

I heard Mark Sayers speak recently, and as he read this poem aloud, I felt as if something that had died in me was being awakened with a gentle caress—as if something deep and beautiful and a little tragic, like my favorite novel, was coming to life. And it filled me with a new and urgent desire for silence, so I could hear more of the same.

In The World of Whispers - Cam Semmens

There is a serpent in the speakers
of my TV,
I can hear its hiss
running beneath every

Thiss hissssss –
a subtle, insistent whisper:

…buy, buy,
buy an ipod, buy an MG,
buy a PC, buy an Apple
and you will be like God,
buy, buy…

And I – too late – feel the fangs
pierce the thin skin of my will.
And I can feel the venom
every choice I make,

…buy, buy…

but I
lie as still as I can.
Still listening.
for that other whisper –
that still, small voice.

Cameron M. Semmens

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Charlotte Bronte, Anne Rice, and Dissevering Christianity

I decided that I needed to return to a classic this week after spending last week trying to figure out the mania behind the Twilight saga (which I determined comes down to the proverbial human longing for some hip, ethereal being to find us irresistible in spite of our obvious frailty and imperfection). So, I picked up Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre today because, although I have already read it twice, after twelve years I only recall that I liked it. Turns out, I really like it.

When it was first published, critics called it anti-Christian. In the preface to the second edition Charlotte Bronte addresses those “in whose eyes whatever is unusual is wrong” to remind them that speaking out against Christianity is not equal to speaking out against Christ. She says,
“To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns… appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ. There is – I repeat it – a difference; and it is a good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.

“The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show pass for sterling worth – to let white-washed walls vouch for clean shrines.”
Have things changed so little since 1847? In so many ways, Christianity is still wrapped up in human doctrine and appearance all blended together with the creeds of Christ, and we have such difficulty separating them. I often equate pleasing the Christian subculture with pleasing Christ. But it is not so. Yet it’s so hard to separate that subculture from the world-redeeming creed of Christ.

It all reminds me of Anne Rice’s decision recently to disassociate from Christianity because of all the hypercritical, politicized ideas that have become a part of Christian subculture. She doesn’t want all the extra stuff. She just wants to follow Christ. I get that.

Sometimes, it feels to me that the only way to really separate Christian subculture, with all its narrow human doctrine and appearance, from the world-redeeming creed of Christ is to withdraw from the Church completely so that the simplicity of the gospel doesn’t get mixed in with all the rest. Yet, I’m convinced that we need each other, and so I can’t leave, messy as it may be to be part of a family, and as much as I get sucked into their ways; as much as I’m often embarrassed by them. It’s my family.

So I guess all I can do is continue spending my days trying to dissever that which has been enmeshed with Christ’s redemptive message ever since he came, ironically, to free us from all the extra stuff. I needed Bronte to put words to it for me, but that’s what I’ve been working at for some time now. That’s what she did with her novel, Jane Eyre.  That's why this novel has so much more significance to me now than when I studied it in school.  Now I understand the author.

article on Anne Rice

To help with the dissevering

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Avoid Rain: Be Good?

It has taken me 33 years to learn that pain in life is a given. And even still, I have to constantly relearn it as I find myself trying to escape from anything painful or disappointing. I blame Disney, really. I think Disney movies set us up for disappointment (with the exception of The Journey of Natty Gann and The Fox and the Hound which are unnecessarily painful). We’re left to believe that if Walt Disney were in charge of the world, it would be a much happier place. But we’ve got this God guy in charge who seems to value pain as much as pleasure (if not more).

Still, I got the idea from the God-followers that I could actually avoid pain by following a simple formula: if you keep from being human, you can keep from being hurt. In other words, rain only falls on the broken so don’t be broken. Keep it all together and pain won’t knock at your door. Or, you reap what you sow, so be a good girl.

Maybe there’s some truth there (like 2%), but it sets us up with a Disney-esque purpose in life: be good, avoid pain, live happily ever after. And it contradicts the words of Christ, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” and, of course, Bono’s paraphrase, “Blessings are not just for the ones who kneel, luckily.”

The consequence of this formula, I think, is that at some point in life (I am a slow learner) we realize that very often life sucks whether we’re good or bad, and we feel we’ve been hoodwinked by the God-followers who promised that everything would work out fine. We think God didn’t hold up his part of the bargain—he must not be good like Walt Disney.

I admit, I’m disappointed with God. I didn’t get the life I wanted. And I was good. The formula failed me. So, now I keep trying to reprogram from Walt-philosophy to a philosophy that allows for my humanity and the complexity of a life with pain and pleasure and brokenness.

Blaise Pascal said, "Two things contribute to our sanctification. Pains and pleasures." Could it be that happiness and pain-avoidance are not the purpose of life? Maybe the journey of sanctification—the journey of knowing our true selves by knowing the true God—is the point. Maybe I can’t protect myself from pain (even by being good) and maybe I’m not supposed to.

"The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed." Frederick Buechner

Monday, May 24, 2010

courting youth

sorry if I encroach but you smell like youth
so I want to lean in and
keep moving in to breathe you in
to catch it through contagion as you speak
and breathe on me
as your dreams all spill out
over laughter and meals and your green ideals

though I know I can’t stay
but maybe just for today I’ll pretend so
I can spend this hour
letting you get under my skin

you should know this may hurt
but I need you to bleed
a little hope onto me and a little carefree
a little reckless spontaneity
just a drop or two of what I used to be before
this compulsory vaccine called life
got to me

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reflections at a Wedding

I miss the beauty of unblemished hope
where fewer slowing shoulds interrupted
the fast flow of could
and all was youth
in forever
where we played and planned
lifetimes of lying together
even in fabled fields of trouble
days of white and spring and cherry blossoms
that would never die


until they did
when all the why's came one day
and took it all away
replaced by something more profound
but less hope and less white
where cherry blossoms die
and love is tempered in
calming seas of good and right

and where I wonder if I’ll ever drown again

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Ego Wants to Fix You

Someone shared this passage from a book with me today, and I caught a glimmer of a truth I used to know, and I longed for it again.

It spoke to me because I’ve been thinking about how often I prefer to provide answers rather than to listen. I have the same tendency whether in friendship, counseling, discipleship or evangelism. And I started to wonder if maybe many of us do this as a way of coping with feelings of inadequacy—our way to prove our worth, to feel strong and to distance ourselves from others’ struggles. But as long as we’re focused on being enough we can’t enter the holy place of struggle with others. It leads me back to the need for surrender and rest. Only in the place of rest I can truly enter into life with another. It’s a lesson I’m learning and relearning.

Here’s the passage:

In the Service of Life
Recently, the question, how can I help, has become meaningful to many people.
But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not, how can I help, but is, how can I serve.
Serving is different from helping.
Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals.
When you help you use your own strength to help those of lesser strength.
People feel this inequality.
When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness.
When I help I am very aware of my own strength.
But we don’t serve with our strength.
We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve.
Service is a relationship between equals.
When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction.
When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude.
Service is also different from fixing.
When I fix I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of life in them.
When I serve I see and trust that wholeness.
There is a distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing.
Fixing is a form of judgment.
All judgment creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of difference.
In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance.
We cannot serve at a distance.
We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch.
This is Mother Theresa’s basic message.
We serve life not because it is broken, but because it is holy.
If helping is an experience of strength, fixing is an experience of mastery and expertise.
Service, on the other hand, is an experience of mystery, surrender, and awe.
We are servers of the wholeness and mystery of life.
Fixing and helping may often be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.
They may look similar if you’re watching from the outside, but the inner experience is different.
The outcome is different too.
Over time, fixing and helping are draining, depleting.
Over time we burn out.
Service is renewing.
Service rests on the basic premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose.
When we serve, we know that we belong to life and to that purpose.
Lastly, fixing and helping are the basis of curing, but not of healing.
Only service heals.
-Edited and abridged from original written by Rachel Naomi Remen

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moral Checklists and Christ-less Christianity

You ever have those weeks when your worth and value as a human takes a serious blow? When your personhood is repeatedly called into question based on many legitimate grounds? I just had that week.

It’s like I’ve been keeping score to make sure I still have some hope of making it here among the human race. At times, it is doubtful. I’m failing my Statistics class, I procrastinated too long on getting some things turned in for my grad school program, and I suck at softball. Based on these criteria, some have let me know that I might get voted off the island very soon. On the other hand, I filed my taxes before the deadline, my bills are paid, and my room is clean. But then there’s the fact that I’ve been late a lot lately and most of my jeans don’t fit me anymore. Fail.

I think many of us have a running tally like this to determine our success or failure as a human being—or as a Christian. Others keep a tally of us too, and sometimes we use their tally to determine our worth. Maybe it’s been getting to me this week because, like I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve forgotten who I am and what I’m about.

When I forget, I start judging my life based on all these bogus criteria – what have I accomplished? How have I failed? Am I beautiful enough? Am I responsible enough? Am I smart enough? Am I giving of myself on behalf of others enough? I start trying to live the Christian life according to a checklist of moral achievements and admirable qualities. Sadly, that’s what Christianity is for many of us. We’ve gotten good at living the Christian life without Christ.

So I guess part of remembering includes remembering what it really means to be a Christian—to rest in Christ and believe in his radical acceptance—or what’s known as grace. To surrender the checklist in order to receive that grace. To let go of who I’m trying to be so he can show me again who I am. And somehow in that surrender, my memory gets less and less distorted. I remember. And so I’m transformed.

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away… And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:16, 18

Monday, March 22, 2010

love me

If I could sing like angels and wore flowers in my hair,
would that make you love me?
Would that keep you there?

If I could paint a picture or could dance on air,
would you say you love me,
with no affections spare?

What if I would feed the poor or give my life to prayer,
is that why you would love me?
Is that why you would care?

If I had skin of porcelain and eyes beyond compare,
would I be what you would want?
Would you then call me fair?

If I could see the souls of men and free them from their lair,
would I be enough for you?
Could you find something there?

Or what if I’m just as I am—broken, lame and bare?
Could you make me beautiful?
Could you with love repair?

If I stop striving for your love through being something rare,
would you show me who I am?
Could grace undo despair?

Then crooked though my heart may be, with you my heart I’ll share.
Because you love me as I am,
with you I cannot err.

Judging Judgers

If there’s one type of person I can’t stand, it’s people who judge other people. No, that irony is not lost on me.

Over the past month, I have had strong reactions to people who have criticized, mocked, or put others down. I’ve been angry about their lack of grace, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to show them grace. As I’ve been thinking about my unwillingness to love at all times (even when people are stupid), I wonder how circular this all is. I wonder if our judgment of others doesn’t come out of our own fear of being judged. Our inability to love comes out of our fear of not being loved. Our lack of grace toward others comes from our inability to receive grace for ourselves.

I admit that my judgment of others comes out most when I am terrified of being judged— when I’m insecure and feeling like I’m not enough, I’m not lovable. But if I can accept myself as a human who does and says stupid things sometimes (often) and is still loved, then I can show grace to those who, like me, are insecure, judgmental, and self-focused at times.

I think our deepest longing is to be loved in spite of how unlovable we are, and our deepest fear is that all that is unlovable in us will be exposed. Ironically, the more fearful we are, the more the unlovable is exposed.

I trace most things back to fear. Fear is a saboteur targeting our relationships and our personal freedom. It manifests itself as control, insecurity, pride, arrogance, suspicion, and judgment. We are all touched by fear. It is part of the human condition and it can only be healed by the assurance that we are lavishly loved, even when we aren’t easy to love—when we act foolishly and don’t deserve it. Perfect love drives away fear.

Fear is the enemy but we treat one another as the enemy. We treat God as the enemy. I think we have such a hard time surrendering to God’s love because we have a hard time letting go of our fear. It is our old friend. We cling to it rather than clinging to each other, to God, to Truth. And so, we resist grace and love. And we make a mess of our lives and relationships. So tragic.

So, I’m learning to pay attention to my own judgment instead of getting angry at others for theirs. It is the warning on my dash telling me that fear is taking over. It tells me that I need to surrender to God’s love so that I can be healed and show others grace. Perfect love drives away fear.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Made to Rule

So, we all long for control. That is no surprise. But to consider that it is our destiny and design to rule and reign is something that I have not thought much about. Though I recognize that Christ came to rescue us from prisons of fear and insecurity that rob us of our freedom of choice, I’ve not really considered the idea that God wants us to have sovereignty. I’ve spent more time thinking of how I should defer to God’s rule—how I should surrender choice and control to God. And I should.

Yet Willard says that “The deepest longings of our heart confirm our original calling.” So, if our desire for control and sovereignty is part of our imago Dei—what makes us persons, then maybe it is not all bad. We desire to accomplish and create good things, to influence and impact.

And yet, our vision and will is distorted. In our fallenness, apart from harmony with God, our longings have gone awry. Like Chaucer’s knight, we dominate and demand from others—robbing them of their personal sovereignty. And we struggle against domination from others in order to try to maintain our own personhood.

There’s so much to who we are that we can’t appreciate because we’re perverts. We have distorted and perverted love and pleasure and power. And that is what makes redemption so beautiful. All is being restored. Christ has made it possible for us to reclaim our personhood—because he made union with God possible. Willard points out that “God equipped us for this task [of ruling] by framing our nature to function in a conscious, personal relationship of interactive responsibility with him. We are meant to exercise our ‘rule’ only in union with God, as he acts with us.” We need him to enlarge our imagination of what can be done “acting in union with God himself.” We need him to redeem our rule.

And here is where surrender makes sense, “When we submit what and where we are to God, our rule or dominion then increases.” So, in a strange paradox, the more we surrender, the more freedom and control and sovereignty we have as we and God move in cooperative faithfulness to one another.

This all gets back to my disdain for goal-setting and self-improvement plans. Last year they were bad. This year they might be good. If redeemed. And I guess that’s the key I was looking for.

This seems so simple, like one of those things everybody else already gets, but it’s still sinking in for me. I’m going to have to sit with it, move it around the room a bit until I find a good place for it. And I’m only on page 28 of this book.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ambition Redeemed

When it comes to telling a better story, questions of control and sovereignty and ambition tend to arise for me. So, starting to read Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy has been well-timed to allow the Truth to ease in and dazzle gradually. It’s helping me understand that striving isn’t all bad.

I often wonder how selfish I’m being when it comes to pursuing my desires and ambitions. To be honest, I prefer to call it selfish so I can defer and hand off responsibility and control. Then I can blame someone else (God) when disappointment and failure come. I can be passive and live safely and call it holiness—much easier.

I’m not a very ambitious person, really. I just want to change the world. Not much. So, I’ve been on this quest to figure out if world-changers just stumble upon it as they react to life as it comes (preferred) or if they actually set out with intention and ambition (more likely, dang it). It seems I might have to risk. All of this is wrapped up with complex ideas about expectations and limitations and grace and humanity and failure and fear and potential. I’ll write a book about it one day that will change the world…

For now, it’s enough to know I’m normal. Willard says so. We’re not intended to be ordinary. “Everyone, from the smallest child to the oldest adult, naturally wants in some way to be extraordinary, outstanding, making a unique contribution…” He says the drive to significance is “a signal of who we are and why we’re here.” But it is not the same as egotism, which is what I didn’t get. He describes egotism as “acute self-consciousness and can be prevented and healed only by the experience of being adequately loved.”

But egotism is often what striving and ambition has been for me. Striving without love is ugly. Brennan Manning painted this dirty little portrait of me, “When… the impostor is running amok, and I am thinking how well I have done and how necessary I am and how secure I feel in the affirmation of others and how remarkable that I have become a player in the religion thing and how deserving I am of an exotic vacation and how proud my family is of me and how glorious the future looks—suddenly, like mist rising from the fields, I am … afraid. I know that behind all my Christian slogans and conversations… there lurks a very frightened man… I have escaped into the fantasy of invincibility.”

But that egotism (and fear) is healed by the experience of being adequately loved. So, if I let God heal me with his love, then I have the freedom to dream and strive as I was meant to—to create a better story, to be ambitious, to change the world. I will risk when I’m loved.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Surrogates: It's the Church

Surrogates is my favorite kind of movie. I love films like Gattaca and The Island, and these sorts of films that make you ask “what if?” Not being a movie critic, I don’t know what you would classify them as—action/thriller/science-fiction/futuristic? But, in the tradition of Frankenstein, I love the subtle commentary they make about humanity and technology and society.

I just finished watching it and I can’t get it out of my head. The director said that the story is a metaphor for the digital age that we live in and explores themes having to do with our obsession with self-image and beauty. It shows the appeal of experiencing life from the comfort and safety of your own home through technology—but not really living. It also touches on themes of identity—living out of a false self instead of facing the discomfort and pain of our own humanity.

I guess I think of these kinds of films and novels as prophetic warnings in a way. “Here’s what can happen if you go down this road…” In Surrogates we see a couple who lost their son and have become completely disconnected—they’re connected to technology but very disconnected from themselves and each other. By living through surrogates, people don’t have to deal with wrinkles, weight, disease, acne, pain, difficulty. But they’re not living.

Not too far from reality in many cases. It makes me think of how often we hide behind false selves and technology so we don’t have to deal with the harsher realities of life in this world, and we settle for experiences of pseudo-pleasure instead. My own constructivist spin on it is that it could be a movie about modern Christianity and the Church.

But, of course, the conclusion is that living with our authentic humanity, in spite of the difficulty, discomfort, and hurt that comes with it, is the only way to truly live. Hiding behind a false image isn’t truly living. I see this as a theme of God’s kingdom too. Blessed are those who recognize their humanity and their need for God, for theirs is the kingdom…

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Better Story

Last year at this time I refused to make New Year’s resolutions. I was pretty sure self-improvement plans and goal-setting were evil. Instead I was going to trust God with the plans.

But what I learned this year is that trusting God can be such a nice disguise for fear.

At one point this past year, when I was pushing back on goal-setting, my friend called me on it, “You don’t want to set goals because you fear failure.” In my head I was reaching for some holier motive having to do with trusting God, surrender, rest, or contentment. But he was right. I couldn’t deny it. I fear failure. I fear disappointment—disappointing myself or others. And so, I play it safe. And trust God.

I remember when I was getting ready one morning, looking in the mirror and thinking, “I am a one-dimensional character in my own story.” You remember from literature class—flat and round characters? Static and dynamic? The static, flat ones stay the same; they don’t change; they have no substance; they are usually peripheral characters. Round characters change; they have conflict and crises and adventure, and they’re worth reading about. I was craving the excitement and adventure of the round character, but living without a plot.

Then Don Miller stole my idea. He wrote this book about living a better story. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. As I read it, I was confronted again with the idea that good stories involve conflict. I was going to have to face hardship and failure to tell a better story. Never mind then.

Perhaps I wanted God to write my story because I thought he would smooth the path. Remove the obstacles. Make it easy. But I know better. I wasn’t really letting him write the story at all. I was hiding behind him.

Maybe I needed that time of healing at the beginning of last year. Time without plans. Time to learn about grace and limitations. But I lingered too long like a bird that doesn’t want to leave the nest. Time to get the story moving.

Miller writes about needing an inciting incident to force our story along. “…humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon.”

So I decided to sign up for a marathon this year.

It’s more of a symbolic gesture, really. A way to remind myself that my story isn’t over, that I can face my fears and my issues and create a beautiful story, that in spite of failure or disappointment or setbacks I can move forward and not settle for an easier story, that I will face resistance when trying to create something good but I can keep going. (Plus, I do enjoy running—I just gave it up when it got hard.)

Miller says that the great stories go to those who don’t give into fear. He describes the point at which we all want to give up on our stories and find something easier. We give up on marriages and dreams and goals because we are disappointed or tired or it’s taking too long to get where we want to go. Life is harder than we thought.

I agree with Miller’s reflection, “Part of me wonders if our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life.” We live in a culture that says life should be easy and everything should work out for you and your God should help make your life trouble-free. And everything gets small and meaningless and easy. And one-dimensional.

Trusting God ≠ ease. Trusting God = rest. But rest and ease are not the same. There’s a difficult path to God’s rest. He’s going to let things get hard. He’s still good. He’s entrusted me with a story. A redemptive story. (Aren’t those the best?) A story full of conflict and difficulty and beauty and joy.

I need to sit with him. Let him enlarge my imagination. Make the big plans. Attempt the impossible. Risk falling on my face—expect it. Receive his grace. Fail. Learn. Grow. Give him my fear. Let him give the vision. Rest. And move. Live a better story—that’s the plan this year.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Loss of Living Here

We lose a lot of who we are when we learn to live in this world.

We can’t fully be who we were designed to be here. We teach little ones the ways of the world, and they learn quickly which parts of who they are will not be acceptable here. A lot of it is necessary, but there’s no doubt we all get squashed in order to live here. The truly free will have a hard time here.

We all start off quirky. Some adapt better than others. Some, like me, bow to the gods of status quo and become very likeable to nearly everyone by sacrificing distinctiveness. Lately I’ve been watching my three-year-old niece, who is a lot like me in nearly every way, and wondering what I’ve lost—what she’ll lose.

She is so full of life and energy and excitement. It’s a lot to handle sometimes. So we tell her the rules of living in the world. You can’t be like that, have to be more this, less that. Granted, the manipulative and depraved nature that I know in myself comes out in her and needs to be squelched—in all of us. But so much of our original design gets lost in the fray as we learn to fit, to be accepted, to remain sane, to not get hurt, to pay our bills, to be responsible, to not annoy our aunt.

I mean, I have to tell her the rules. You know, ones like “no excited, non-stop talking before 8 am.” It’s a necessary rule (to protect us both), but I feel a little bit of who she is slipping away when her big smile fades. I don’t know how long she stands by my bed waiting for me to wake up when she stays overnight with me, but when I open my eyes that big smile is there and she’s ready to explode all of who she is on me before I’m quite awake.

But to live here, in this world, we have to tell them who they can and cannot be. We all learned it. Your animated displays of emotion are not going to work out here. The face you make when you’re thinking is going to make your life difficult. Your fondness for incessant hugging is not going to be appreciated here...

The Human World has some universal rules, but there are also different rules for different worlds. Church World. American World. Suburbia World. Disney World. Sometimes it’s hard to know which rules to follow. Which status quo am I aiming for? Weird Portlander? Or proper southerner? Nice church girl? Or unconventional revolutionary? So, we end up just trying to create an identity based on the cues we’ve been given in the world we're in.

Won’t it be beautiful when we’re all finally free of the rules of this world? Free to be who we were created to be without concern for the rules of living far from home? I am moving closer to a taste of that freedom now, but I look forward to the day when I arrive and find out who I am really. And who you are.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

That We May Live

My mother Ease
My father Fear
      they coddle me
      in their bed
      and shower me
      with promises

There, I hover just above life
      Watching, but not living
            and not growing
            and not hurting
            and not loving

Like surfing on the madding crowd
      moving but unmoved
      as they pass me around
But the one who loves me will drop me
      and let me break
      and walk away
      and wait (and ache)
      until I can only crawl to him
      and lay
      prostrate on my face

This is the one who loves
This is the one who loves
       Oh True Father
       I am your daughter

Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Hosea 6:1-2