Friday, January 28, 2005


One Step Ahead

Lu wrote a very interesting message about one of Nashville Mosaic team's meetings. She took a shaky step forward because she was desperate, and brought the whole group into a new kind of meeting. A holy meeting. And then she asked how this had happened.

It may be clearer to me than it is to her, because I'm on the outside. Outsiders frequently have a better view than the people involved because the emotional clouds are gone. I know why this event happened, and why it was holy.

She took a step. Desperation was the boot to the behind, but instead of just wallowing around wishing she could do something, she listened to that little voice--OK, screaming voice of pain--and instead of sitting on it, she put herself out there. The other members of the team could have castigated her for disrupting the meeting, but instead they did the right thing: ranged themselves around her and supported her.

Her step took a kind of courage I simply don't have. I wouldn't even have been at the meeting if I'd been feeling the way she did, preferring to hide when I'm hurting.

If a church wants to attract outsiders it needs to meet real human needs. If an individual follower of Jesus wants power in her or his witness, the outsiders are going to have to see something different. Something that respects who people are. Most churches demand that humanity be checked at the door; only the holy are admitted. So, humanity is lost and with it any kind of real holiness. Jesus is our example: human, and holy. He's our model.

The truth is that we are neither human nor holy. We're so depraved, so fallen in our lives, that only scraps of humanity hold the dust together. Then we have the gall to say that this kind of churchly denial is holiness. We don't recognize real life when it comes, until it's almost too late. Only when we're desperate do we try to reach out from the self-built prison, waving hands from steel-barred windows in hope that there will be some sort of fleeting contact with someone. The result is bad: people dying of alcoholism, drugs, et cetera.

First love, John said in Revelation. Return to it. Could this be a return to desperation? When I, for example, simply threw myself at Jesus' feet hoping I wouldn't be tossed out with the rest of the trash? Now life isn't so desperate, which is kind of nice. But I also don't feel the push to make contact with other people.

I've always been quite comfortable doing things alone. Trying to get something going with others is always difficult. I came to Mosaic knowing I needed something, but unsure of what it was. God found me, and he answered most of the questions. Now it's occurring to me that perhaps I'm made for relationships with people, too, that I'm going to have to make a move like Lu's. Step forward and hope that, if I express the pain I feel, I won't be dropped.

I can't do it. I don't trust anyone, except God. I stay home on Sundays because I've not found a church that can reach over the divide between us. I'd need to reach over myself, and I can't do it. Too much risk, too little invitation. It's simpler to do it myself, but that way has limitations. One person doesn't have much in the way of resources, which is why tables have more than one leg.

Everyone, however, is waiting for someone else to make the first move. Someone visible. I prefer to be unseen, but that's habit. And experience. It's what I know. I'm very strongly center-seeking, resisting God's nudges off my usual track.

I was having dinner with Debbie and Nate last week. Debbie, as she frequently does, asked me about relationships with women. I always say nothing doing: lack of experience, lack of attractiveness, and I don't speak the language and don't know how to learn it. One way or another, God is teaching the group in Nashville how to speak relationship to each other. Lu wants to know if it's a permanent change, or just an EST-like one-shot.

I say it's up to them. If they choose to continue to tell the truth instead of candy-coated baby talk, then the change will be permanent. If they try to go back to the way of elegant words and prayers designed to be heard by people, the spirit will go back into hiding and await another time when everyone's desperate enough for contact that they'll break the rules again.

Rules are for non-believers. We have the Holy Spirit, who is a most wonderful counsellor. He'll patch us up when things go wrong. One day maybe I'll be able to practice that with at least one other person. In the meantime I applaud Lu and her group for taking this step. May the rest of their meetings be even better.

Only one thing is certain. A group's leader has to take the first step, knowing God is out there breaking the trail and inviting everyone to follow. Everyone hopes that the whole outfit gets pulled up to something beyond what is humanly possible.

Tag, Lu! You're it!

Dear God of honesty, please help the Nashville Mosaic team continue to grow in truth.
Full truth, not the thinned out stuff that most churches use,
but the real, sparkly, full-dimensioned and frequently painful kind You use.
Help them to be real people, after your own heart.
You know what they need
you know their dreams
and you have your own dreams.
Remake Nashville in your image, please, with your music.

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