Saturday, April 09, 2005
No One Special
"Come on, Larry. Let's go."
How often do you get to swim with a lifeguard? "OK." I put down my carving tool and followed Bruce into the water. "Doin' the Stingray Shuffle..." I sang. He taught me that to avoid stepping on stingrays when the water's warm you drag your feet along the bottom to tell them you're coming. I'm not that confident an ocean swimmer; Bruce taught me most of what I know and it's by example as we bob around in the waves.
There's a pool in front of all of us. From the viewpoint on the verge it looks dangerous. Thrashing waves, gnashing rocks, spindrift flying from black water. Like Peter, we can see the wind. No way we're going in there no matter how many invitations we get. To jump in is to die. Oh, yes, if we're to live we have to give away our lives, but it's the old bird-in-the-hand syndrome. Why give up a safe, comfortable place on the shore for a chance at possible greatness out there in the wild water?
People stick their toes in the water, while hanging onto the shoreline rock, and call that reality. They stand around talking about the experience in glowing terms. Huge houses are built to worship the power of the waves and interpret them for everyone else.
Occasionally someone walks out of the water. These people look somewhat worn and disreputable. They invite others to join them, saying the swim will be difficult but lively. Safe? No, not that. But good.
Some months ago Lu and I were exchanging Email. She said I had the heart of a warrior.
When men build a fort the plans are based on what they're defending against. Aircraft bombs, missiles, tunnels and sappers, men carrying bazookas, check. We know about those. No one plans for the absurd, such as a truckload of avocados materializing inside the place, or a giant red rock eater walking over the hill.
Lu's statement was so absurd that it just walked in under the eyes of the guards and sat down, much as Erwin did that first Sunday I visited Mosaic. All these walls, and Truth found a hole the size of a truck and simply walked in. God, who didn't exist, was looking me in the eye. Lu's "warrior heart" idea put down its own roots. It wouldn't walk away and I was too stunned to throw it out. What if it were true?
Yesterday I got the shopping done. First Trader Joe's so there'd be some food in the house, and then REI to pick up the single-wheel bike trailer I'd ordered. On a whim I rode the #3 bus to the end of the line and then rode my commuter bike from there. It wasn't really any faster, but I get bored with doing the same thing, and I'd ridden to REI and back the week before. Variation is good. I hooked up the trailer and set out westbound on Rosecrans against a stiff wind. Typical for spring, cold, whitecaps on the ocean under air that blued away into the distance.
When I got home I made lunch. Tired from the ride I relaxed with a book. As is usual in cases like this, there are various other thought trains running along with the book and one of them suddenly went off like a flashgun. Names... warrior heart... growing...
I've been called many names over the years. Many have been intended to put me in my place. We've all been through that. Other names are temporary reflections of current reality. None of them have been names to grow into, names to call me forward beyond what's normally possible. Until Lu and her warrior heart. Like one of Nate's thought-Scuds that idea zipped in and blew up into something I didn't understand. It called me on. What if it's true? I had to think about it. Lu looked at my life, extrapolated into the future and said what she thought. It's one reason I respect her.
My response to her was "Do I have a warrior heart, or am I just desperate?" It's not hard to jump into the huge black waves when the shore is crumbling to death behind you.
Philosophers love to talk about the "leap of faith." They say that life is in the leap. By leaping, no matter what's out there, you truly live even if you crash. I've always thought that was balderdash and horse feathers, the last word of those too weak to consider reality. If reality is empty, well, live with it. Leaping into emptiness doesn't fill it.
Yes, I leaped. Desperation behind me, but ahead, out there holding like a lifeguard against the waves I could see God. Maybe he wouldn't catch me, but he was out there. I knew that because I saw the way other people shone with his presence, and I could see the same shine on recent events in my life. I certainly didn't deserve to be caught and haven't earned any of the grace and beauty he has shown me since that time.
So, why does he walk with me each day while others struggle for any kind of a sign? I don't know. His nature is love, love of a kind that really needs a new vocabulary. The relationship isn't one of employer and employee, nor lover and beloved, nor master and pet. It holds shades of mutual respect, abject need, fulfilling the role for which God designed me. Like any other creative project the contours flow and change around the unchanging adamant core of God's love.
As you start so shall you continue. What you believe tends to become true. I know a lot of people who live in self-defined hells. Anything would be better, but they refuse all suggestions. Well, I've been there. When it's all you can do to barely hang on by your toenails any shaking is a great threat.
Maybe the great secret here is that the Holy Spirit is stronger than my toenails. It just takes time to learn, as he gives us a new name to grow into.
2005 April 9
Email failed; posted to Blog April 11