Monday, December 20, 2004


A Failure... Of Love?

I got my kit together and hit the road. 0730 on a chilly but sunny Saturday morning, riding my old Ritchey with its trailer loaded with sand sculpture gear. Planned sand sculpture, head full of plans and ideas.

The main idea was to work with the cracked pot idea. Debbie had told me of the pastor's description of all of us as cracked pots, with God's Spirit shining out through the cracks. I wanted to make a sculpture that looked like this, using the sun to provide the light.

West along Rose, then I turn south along the Boardwalk. I can get away with this because of the early hour, and it's easier than cutting through the parking lot whose entrance is now plugged with someone trying to park. To get onto the bike path I have to cut through one of the little seating areas, which is frequently occupied by homeless but today is empty.

There is an obstacle, however. An old man on a bike, pulling a ratty trailer, is very slowly moving toward the bike path. I slow, pass behind him and then turn left to get to the path.

For some reason, the old man watches wide-eyed, tracking me as I pass. There's plenty of room; he's on my left, entering the bike path in the wrong lane. I lean into the pedals and complete the turn just as I hear a crash. I quickly glance back as someone says "You OK, buddy?" and see a jumble of equipment. A very low speed crash of someone I just don't care about, and I keep on going, mind on my coming project.

Cold? Cavalier? Perhaps. I thought so, at the time, in a sort of guilt-driven way. Honesty led me to keep going, guilt suggested I go back to see if I could help, and over all that was a small worry about who I was trying to please. Naturally, the story about the beaten man lying beside the road until a despised Samaritan picked him up and took him home, came to mind. Years ago perhaps I would have stopped. As it is, I'm generally tired of crowds, tired of all the people who get in the way around here.

I expected to get yelled at by God for this. So I started yelling at myself. Caught with my hand in the cookie jar, I'll help Him cut it off to assuage my own guilt.

Now, how much of what motivates me is guilt, and how much is love? Am I just trying to keep God happy by what I'm doing, so that He'll leave me more or less alone? Make jolly all the time so that I don't get into trouble?

The day wasn't the best. The sculpture's design didn't work; sunset light isn't bright enough for the effect I wanted. It fell over anyway due to engineering problems. Cracks showed when I was about 85% complete so I cleaned it up as best I could and took some pictures. I hoped it would last until after the sun set, but it failed about 15 minutes early.

It never occurred to me to ask God to help it stay together. He's done that for me, so why not sand? And... only 15 minutes, right after I took a photo. Suzi caught the failure on tape.

When I got back to my bike, my rack trunk was gone. Stolen by some scumbag. What's this about? I thought we had a deal? I do what You want, You look after the equipment I can't watch.

What's this? God as utility-minder? Dealing with God? Trading in sin? Karma and transactional analysis combining with a sort of horse-trader's grace? If I hadn't been post-sculptural I'd have been really hurting. Well, I was hurting anyway, but in too much pain to notice the heart problems.

Am I a monster? Yeah, but not any worse a monster than when God picked me up. The truth is I have a hard time loving people who are easy to love, much less the more difficult kinds. I've learned to deal with difficult situations by leaving, and there wasn't much I could have done anyway.

What really upset God was my casual attitude, of being comfortable in a certain place and not wanting to upset that. I've become very conservative in some ways. Happiness has been so rare in my life that when it comes I try to hold on, and I just don't want challenges. This pretty much goes against the Holy Spirit, whose direction is always in toward increasing life in all of its dimensions.

If I don't love now, am I prepared to learn to love sometime?
If I'm taking a utilitarian approach to life right now, am I willing to change?
Am I willing to turn loose of good things in order to grow?
What's more important? Growth, or feeling good?
And... am I willing to accept God's grace? With the lid off, and knowing more about what stinks in there? I'm no wonder-Christian of the age, just another bum lucky enough to fall onto God's bus.

God knows I have about three ounces of love in a ten-pound can. He's always known my heart is more stone than anything else. Survival without God is a real bitch and requires some tough decisions. Do I have the courage to let God unmake those decisions? Can I let God be my toughness? Ultimately, who do I trust? God, or myself?

Where should I draw the boundary line? God's heart is big and includes everyone. Mine is small and excludes just about everyone. I'm fortunate God isn't made in my image.

If I were a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Catholic or any other belief, I'd be in big trouble right now. A clear failure, with no clear way of dealing with the problem. God is different. He accepts me through Jesus, and gives me his Holy Spirit so that I can try again. If I want to. And the Holy Spirit changes me so that I want him to change me. Otherwise I'd be dead meat.

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