Friday, February 04, 2005


Forget Memory

"You've been very quiet tonight, man." Carl looks at me from his seat at
the end of the couch.
"You folks haven't been talking about things I know anything about." The
conversation has been wide-ranging and rapid for the last hour and a half.
This life group is usually lively but tonight has been unusually so.
"That's not true. You know a lot about life, and the Spirit."
Yes, but for some reason tonight I just haven't felt any strong push to
compete in this rapid marketplace of ideas. Partly I've been thinking about
other things, and partly I'm just a little too slow. I'm like the cat "Old
Possum's Book of Practical Cats," thinking about Names. Once named by God,
what else matters?

It's an odd feeling. Products usually shout from the shelf: loud colors,
huge type, swirls and slants in the designs. If they could I'm sure the
package designers would put flashing lights on their boxes. "NO TICE ME!"
I'm just struck dumb by the fact that God knows my Name. I don't need to
elbow out a place, nor try to pack another word into an already busy
six-cornered conversation.

We're studying the Gospel of John at work, having finally finished Rick
Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life." The Gospel is proving to be more
interesting, and we've set up a Blog to use for exchanging notes. Don was
the leader for Thursday's session, and the wedding at Cana was his topic.
He assigned homework. I read the section several times and then wrote a
little story to answer Don's questions. It got pretty well taken apart
during the study session, with truth if a little too much glee, and I could
see the validity of what Don taught. I'm good at putting stories together
from minimal information but there's no substitute for real study.

This could have spiralled into a real dive. Being wrong is usually a great
threat to my stability; who can I trust if not myself? Not everyone is a
Bible scholar.

My Name comes from God, not myself. Nor Don. The Holy Spirit helped me to
see the truth of this event as I rode the bus home, and I sat in the
dentist's chair distracting myself from the jackhammering with thoughts of

I woke from my reverie near the end of the meeting.
"Does anyone have prayer requests?"
"Yes. Work and school have me very busy," Jenny says. "Please pray for me
this week as I take tests."
And I finally speak up. "The Nashville Mosaic folks are having some
trouble. I've been praying that they'd learn through what's happening. Ask
God to help them."

Then the group breaks up into smaller subsets: two in the kitchen, three in
the living room looking at pictures, Carl and me on the couch.
"Are you OK? Those last few Emails, I've been wondering."
"Yes. I write to sort things out. Helps me to understand, in a process."

Later on I'm by the dining table.
"Hey, man, tell me what you think of this idea," Nate says. He and Peter
had been talking in the kitchen. "Think of this moment of your life as a
bead on a string. The past is below, like this table." His hands move to
show the concept, drawing the table, the bead and then stretching a string.
"As the ends move apart, the bead rises from the past until the whole
string becomes a ray. What do you think?"
"I, umm..." I think it's twaddle. Who's pulling the ends of the string? why
does it have ends? What are the other beads? And a string pulled never
becomes straight, but hangs in a catenary curve. "That's interesting, but
what does it mean?"

"There is no past," Peter says. "There is only memory, and it's left behind
so it has no power."
Only a man who's completely oblivious could say something like that. It's
actually a popular New Age concept: remove all of your problems by stepping
away from your past. It doesn't exist anyway.
"Tell that to an alcoholic who's trying to change his life. Tell it to
someone who's struggling to remember, in the fog of Alzheimer's Disease,
how to tie her shoes. We need memory. The past may be gone, but the memory
is there and it has power." And I put some of that power into my words; I'm
really tired of pseudointellectuals treating life as theory. Theologians
have the same problem.

Midnight. We wait for the light at Centinela.
"Do think a true intellectual would naturally end up believing in Jesus?"
Nate is giving me a ride home. The car's headlights are dim. I hope the
battery holds out.
"There's a strong intellectual component to my belief. I know enough about
science that I can't buy the idea that what happened in my life to bring me
back to God is purely coincidence. Besides that, why would God give me a
good mind if he didn't expect me to use it? The problem is that it's easy
for intellect to chase its tail in pretty theories and logical circles.
Only the Holy Spirit can keep this straight. I know I need him to keep me
from getting lost again."

"Thank you for the ride."
"No problem, man. Go on about the past?"
"Names. This Name idea really has a hold of me. We forget our names and
then God gives them back, yet we still have to fight to remember them. So
many people want to take them away and give us their own names of
convenience. But there's a confidence that comes from knowing that God
knows me! He knows my Name completely. I've been more relaxed lately. I'm
not sure where this leads."
"Good stuff, man. Like a penny dropping into a lake. Our conversations keep
going deeper."

2005 February 4

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