Sunday, March 13, 2005
Dying to be Led
"Hey, Larry, it's Nathan, man. You down?"
Snap decision. "Yes."
"We'll be by. Laters." Click. Nate is nothing if not concise on the telephone.
Just like that the day's course changed. Being rather fuzzy from too little sleep and lots of activity, the only big event I had planned was to go over to see my friend Rocket. Now I'm going to Mosaic's new Culver City celebration.
What is a barbarian? Erwin is big on the concept, and it's the core of his latest message series. When I think of barbs, however, I think of the Huns overrunning Europe and leaving no lasting legacy other than a scattering of new genes among the population. And yet I have no strong respect for civilization, either.
I passed on the first Sunday in Culver City, choosing instead to ride into the local mountains to see the new spring flowers. Church hasn't often been my first choice of activity. I can see the need for a way to be introduced to God, and Mosaic did that for me when I needed it badly, but since they left the west side it seems that my path has diverged, and practically no one from the church has expressed any interest in where I'm going. Like the little red hen who made her own bread I'm used to doing things myself.
Nate stops the car in front of my place and I fold my stiff legs into the seat.
"Which way, man?"
"Venice, Babe. Or Washington."
"Venice would be better," I say.
What is a leader? Does one who goes his own way, neither depending on others to find the way nor attracting a lot of followers, be considered a leader? Following is for sheep; while waiting for something to happen, I can go and make it happen. Leading is for people with a masochistic streak.
"There it is, Babe," Deb says as we drive past.
"Maybe there's another entrance." He makes the turn and there is.
I have no idea, really, what to expect. It'll probably be small, and what with the commitments at the other five services there will probably be no one I know from the Temple Slave cadre here.
We walk to the entrance. There are Rick and Susan handing out bulletins. We hug in greeting and then Andy comes out and I hug him, too. Then Grandizer comes running and we hug. Yep. There's nothing like walking into a room full of strangers. Eric comes out for a hug and I'm not so surprised to see him because Erwin won't be here until next week, so someone has to speak. Chris Lee and Ernae are also here, and Sandra is at the door. I stop to talk with her for a bit after we hug because her life has taken interesting turns lately and she has only hinted at this on her Blog.
Inside is another surprise. The room is just about full. David Arcos greets me and beyond him I see yet another surprise: Erwin. Nothing happens per schedule at Mosaic, which is one of its either endearing or maddening aspects, depending on your point of view. We shake hands and then Grandizer and I find a place to sit, Debbie and Nate on one side, Jenny and Joe on the other.
Every time I walk into a Mosaic meeting it's like coming home. The greetings are real, and warm, but where the heck are these people in the time between? Out of sight, out of mind. Am I the only one who wants real friendship beyond the church meeting?
The band is entirely unfamiliar to me, other than Dominic playing bass. They're all animated, into the music. We're late, as usual, made later by my round of greetings, so there are only two songs before the house darkens and the video screen lights up. What's shown there has something to do with barbarians, but it's incomprehensible to me.
Erwin walks to the front. "We're in the eighth week of our series on barbarians. If you're here for the first time you'll be lost." That's delivered deadpan, and then he goes on. "Today we're looking at leadership."
I've always felt like a barbarian in my mother's house. Everything she has is designed to fit a certain space, and everything is neat. She, herself, is neat and always well dressed. I, by contrast, practice housekeeping by geologic principles--whatever is newest is on top of the heap--and dress by FIFO. First in, first out. Next to her I look like an unmade bed.
"I think the church has turned into something that Jesus wouldn't recognize. It has become an institution." Yah, I think, and even Mosaic has its ways. And yet...
"Who will present to the people of the world God's love in a living way that will show everyone that he knows us and wants us to live fully alive? It's not enough for us to get life. We need to share it. Who will lead the way?"
Who will teach people to live? Erwin is on fire with his message, but it is incomplete. It's a great dream. How do you do it? How do you learn?
And the Holy Spirit opens the door in my mind and shows me. History. One way to learn is to become desperate enough to cry out to God for help. Recently I've been fighting this idea. God gets ahold of a person and he starts to burn with holy light, a lamp on a hill that becomes attractive to all of the sheep in the area.
Someone has to do it. And yet I wonder how many of the people standing and giving out their great barbarian yawp, at Erwin's instigation, are doing more than following the person standing next to them. I remain seated, refusing to yawp on command. If there's yawping to be done, the Holy Spirit, whose leadership I trust far more than anyone else's, will let me know.
God has changed many of the ways I live, but he has not removed my Berean tendency to think for myself. The events of my life led to that particular singularity, on the doorstep of Mosaic Beverly Hills and made me ready to get the message.
Life is hopeless without God. I'd lived a whole life by rigid rules and when I heard God's promise of living by love I took off and ran with the idea. If it's true I'll live, if it's not true I'll die and be no worse off than I would have been anyway. What's odd is how a Christian has to fight to avoid coming under a new set of rules. God sets us free so that we can be bound up in churches and holy guilt.
That's one reason Christians, as Erwin pointed out, can't be differentiated from non-Christians. Rules are rules, no matter who formulates them, and they kill.
How do you make a leader? Replace human will, human rules with the Holy Spirit.
Erwin's final point is a good one, and gives me much to think about. "We need barbarian leaders to show others the way." The principles of failure analysis lead one to the conclusion that it's better to prevent than to repair, and prevention comes from good extrapolation. What happened yesterday, and what's happening today, lead to what will happen tomorrow.
Almost all of the house stood to yawp with Erwin. Every one will be a leader? Is God really wanting to make every Christian a leader? Why not? Not everyone has to lead a horde. One or two turn into a small group, and those join to make hordes. One who leads in one area will be led in another in the real way of community.
Some of the extrapolation is personally distressing. I look back at my footprints, then ahead, and I can project the track into the future. It's a good thing God gives abilities as he gives the situation.
"Where's the restroom, Chris?"
"Near the door, on the right."
"Thanks. I'm about to explode." I hobble out on cold-stiffened legs
It's relatively easy for a long-time loner to go on his own path. Having been rejected by just about everyone, I learned to things for myself and leave the crowd behind. Turning necessity into virtue, I've learned to take pride in my ability to do things. I figured out how to make sand sculpture, inventing the technology and tools to make the kind of sculptures that I saw in my mind. Now, when someone calls me to see if I will make their corporate logo in sand, I silently sneer and give them the phone number of another sand sculptor. I don't do logos.
Andy and I talk for a bit as the celebration ends. There's a video announcement and then final song. I'd forgotten. Andy walks off to talk with some other people and I just lean on the wall, waiting. Erwin walks past, then turns to me. I move to shake his hand.
"Oh, give me a hug."
We do so.
"Will we see more of you?"
I look him in the eye. "Perhaps." Barbarians don't join stampedes. Desperate Larry, waiting for crumbs to fall from the big people's table, has learned from the Holy Spirit how to find better food.
"It's hard, learning how to care," Debbie says. She's sitting next to me at Dinah's, where we're waiting for breakfast on a very busy morning.
"Yah." I don't know how God will do it, but I've learned never to say he can't. Forgiveness is where we start, and that leads to honesty.
2005 March 13
Thank the Lord for second or third, etc. chances.