Friday, March 18, 2005



A month ago:
"Hi, Larry," Debbie says. "How are you?"
I get in the front seat. Nate puts the car in gear and we head for Killer Shrimp. "I'm... frazzled. Tired, Up too late last night. And I think God has a hold on some major piece of me. I'm not sure what it is yet and I'm not sure I want to know."

After that I did what I usually do when a storm looms: duck. We had a storm cellar when I was a kid and a few times, when the sky turned greenish-purple, we went down there hoping the tornado would go somewhere else. Sickly sky, brick walls and the smells of musty basement and old fruit. Safety.

There is no safe brick room when God Himself is the tornado that threatens the fabric of life. Hiding does no good because he sees everywhere. He promises to hold our feet steady, to protect us, to keep us safe but the feeling is one of asking a cyclone for shelter. Is it any wonder that people have a hard time relating to him? That I alternate between cuddling and fleeing?

So, God gets ahold of a soulpiece. Every other piece that leans on that one quivers and the whole jury-rigged fragile structure that I've patched together for years trembles. Tornado on the horizon. Duck. Let it blow over and then pick up the pieces. Except that now there is no cellar; God has filled it in or locked the door. I have to watch, I must remain aware of what he's doing. Stay awake and trust that he will hold me together.

That's hard to do. No one else has ever helped. Why would I believe that the God who made the universe would care about one man?

Why believe anything? There are few facts and most of those don't relate to daily life. Real living is a process of assumption and testing, and only failure will teach me where the real limits are. Generations of teachers have hammered on the principle of not pissing God off. Don't test him, don't ask questions, just follow orders. Be a good soldier.

How much violence do you want to inflict on your soul? How many contortions to fit a sick society and its even sicker ideas of who God is? Given the choice between death and experimenting with God I chose the path whose outcome was less certain. This should have gotten me flattened. Maybe there are books by Christian experimenters but they don't make it into the publishers' catalogs. Those folks keep offering the same thing in new words: be a good Christian soldier. Follow orders.

it takes no great intellect to follow orders, and you certainly don't have to feel anything. What is the will of God?

An order-giving God is easy to live with. You get instructions and go do them.

A God whose modus operandi is relationship is incomprehensible to me. Mostly because I have no real idea of what a relationship is. I learned the rules without the heart. Within narrow limits I function pretty well but if pushed outside of those by events or invitation I find the terra quite incognita and my confidence evaporates. From solid ground I suddenly step onto moving, tipping pieces and my only thought is of the shelter of hidden solid brick. Let the storm go by. God can't possibly be like this. I'm deceiving myself.

Self-deception is usually self-limiting. If you believe that you can walk westbound on an eastbound freeway you'll soon learn the error. And yet it does happen, as generations of TV preachers have taught us. How can I stay with truth?

Beyond the model provided by human relationships is the tower of reality. Everything I do is an echo of God Himself; he made me as I am. Brains, yes, but emotions too, and body. All those messy things that I thought I'd eliminated or at least removed from consideration. A more advanced kind of life could be had beyond the limitis of emotion.

What happens when you find your more advanced kind of life fails? Monoculture farm susceptible to one little pest: truth. Self-deception. It doesn't fit the real world, as defined by the God who made it.

So, God works on presenting reality. It's new, different, and terrifying. Purple clouds looming, winds wrapping around my cardboard life. He does care. This has been demonstrated over and over, starting with Jesus giving his life so that I could be presentable to God. Why preserve one man? Love. Why push that man onward? Love. Why work on restoring that man to what he was conceived to be? Love. And a sense of humor.

God says to himself, "He thinks he's daring? Wait until he gets ahold of this idea!" I'm used to being the pathfinder, but then I find that the track is actually pretty well worn by others who have dared to question God, and pretty soon I find myself out in mid-air with only God's hand underneath as I walk a tightrope in gusty winds while holding a lot of empty cardboard boxes.

I sort of took a side trip. Thinking that God wouldn't want to be troubled, I tried to meet my needs through other people. There are some holes too deep for anyone to fill and I refuse to be an emotional leech in the attempt to do so.

The problem is that the slope is slippery. Where does legitimate need turn into leechiness? Better to stay away and even draw the line ever farther away. It's pretty cold out there on the edge, but I adapted.

God is light. And heat. A thawing heart is very hard to live with. I try to duck back into the cellar; no matter how cold it is, it's familiar as I'm surrounded with those old-time scents. Brick. Damp mold. But God uses the promise of light and warmth to winkle me out of there and I can't stay long. I see by his light what I'm missing, and what I've lived with all of my life and, believable or no I have to turn my face back to him.

So far, in the year and a half of this experiment, the only failure I've ever been convicted of is not being close enough to God. I've left him out of the events in my life, and I've been a wheel chock to stop the Holy Spirit's progress. Daring as my original thinking was it was way short of God's reality. He wants to be with me. Unimaginable.

Given even a hint of permission, God won't quit. He's the ultimate camel's nose in the tent flap, the strong fisherman using weak line to reel in a heavy fish by taking in slack in every opportunity to bring it in closer. Closer. Ever closer. Everything else comes from that relationship.

I've been letting him down lately by not writing. Events in my life have been strange, too weird even for "Weird Email." I've started several stories but lost my nerve and quit. God cares, even about what I'm feeling? I've never been very good at marching, but this level of individual and personal interest is beyond what I dreamed of at the outset. Just throw me a bone or two and I'll be OK.

No, God wants all. Everything. And everything he touches either burns or shines. His timing is exquisite, never touching one soulpiece until others are ready to support the ongoing process.

And it all depends upon him, more as time goes on. To separate God from his work is to remove the strong force from the nucleus of every atom, and things fly apart. I may not have much to show for the time I've spent with him, no great ministry, but my only cry is "I'm still here." If he lets go I won't be here. In order for there to be a future that's better than today you have to be here.

2005 March 18

Larry--there's more in this post than I can really digest. What I love about your thoughts is how God is so there--so personal, how He doesn't give up on us, push us too fast, or let us crumble, but He also doesn't leave us alone, He keeps pressing in and transforming us. And it's an on-going process . . . a continual discovery of Him and of what our relationship with Him looks like--not His relationship with anyone else . . . If I wasn't so sleepy tonight I sit here and read and reread this post and try to take more in. Good thoughts. Thanks.
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