Monday, July 18, 2005


Stone, Flesh, Pain, Memory

Just because you're not aware of it, doesn't mean you're not hurt. Some torpedoes run deep and lodge down there, encysted over the years, forgotten, but life still takes a pattern in avoiding the cyst. The pattern becomes part of life, until God decides it has gone on long enough.

A heart of flesh can't live that way. It's aware of the hurt, knows it has been damaged in some deep way, and begins to ache. Well, the ache was always there but hidden, buried in noise or events, or under enough layers of other stuff that the pain can't be felt any more. It still hurts and the direction of my life bypasses it, leaving that area unknown, unexplored, dangerous like a hidden land mine.

Seen from this perspective, God is very dangerous. He's a virus attacking the cyst, and my psychologic immune system reacts strongly. He's a lone warrior against the years-old castle, who won't take "No! Hell, no!" for an answer.

I bailed from psychoanalysis when I finally realized I'd die before I'd tell the analyst anything important. I still hold to that defense: life starts to get difficult, or just plain heads south, and I get quiet. That's why there has been so little new content on this Blog over the last few months.

Churches are no help. They insist on structure, organization, and putting machinery before people, plans before effectiveness. It can't possibly be the Holy Spirit doing this because it doesn't fit our way of doing things. The last time I went to church I was taken aside by a man I'd not seen in months and given a gentle lecture about obedience. Now, how the hell would he know if I'm being obedient? He's guessing, from the small part of the pattern that he sees, without asking for my story. This is why I'd rather die than tell anyone anything that's critical to me: people won't take the time to understand.

I could try to tell him that God is working on my heart and he'd say "Wonderful." He could quote me the verse about God taking my stone heart away and replacing it with flesh. What he doesn't understand is the absolute terror this process gives me. I know how to live with a stone heart. I know nothing of flesh, so I'm scared, and when I'm scared I keep to myself... because people tell me I shouldn't be afraid.

I know all that. I know the story of Peter walking to Jesus through the storm. Peter lost his grip on God's reality when he saw the wind coming to tear him apart and sink him. It's a real concern. How many other times have I been promised help that never appears? It's better not to try to float. Stay on the bottom, in the low-energy position where there's little to lose.

God works toward bouyancy. He infuses me with lightness, or works to that end. I'm a pessimist by training, however, due to all those old torpedoes. I know my place is on the bottom, so I stay there, resisting the offer of Jesus' hand to restore me. Falling hurts. Better to simplify things and stay where I've already sunk.

Flesh-for-stone sounds wonderful. The promise of a new life, one that actually has some life to it, skating the wavetops with Jesus. It'll be wonderful when it's done. Getting there is the real problem: staying with Jesus day by day as his transformation takes place through the things we do together. Community is supposed to make this easier, or, if not easier in fact, at least more bearable through having company. But much of what is called community is just spam, in Lu's parlance, and adds to the burden. I not only have to survive the changes, but justify and explain them to skeptics who believe following Jesus is a step-by-step process with recognizable landmarks that can be checked off according to the plan.

There's only so much energy available. I don't have any to use for phony community. So I go my way, and God patiently takes the threads of pain, traces them back to the encysted torpedo, defuses the thing and removes it. My role in this?

Don't hold onto the torpedo. Let it, and the pain, go. They don't define me, but habits, especially those designed to avoid pain (have I told you that I really don't like pain of any kind?) are hard to break. Some of those things really hurt, too. God goes digging, touches something very sensitive, and the pain goes through me like stepping on a hot nail. It's hard to let go. It's hard to let God have his way, when I've learned how to live in the space between the cysts.

I know the safe paths, the places to avoid, the little areas where I can walk without pain. Note that without pain is different from living with pleasure, but it's a trade-off I'm willing to make.

It is NOT, however, a trade-off that interests God. You can't walk a wide land that's laced with land mines. Expansive life doesn't take place on a few narrow paths, trodden deep through the years because they're safely below the level of danger. Bravery seems to go with the heart of flesh, and I squash it.

God is the great breaker of habits, the anti-statistical element in our predictable universes, the wings on the cannonball that has suddenly gone counter-ballistic. The only predictable thing in his behavior is his absolutely unflinching love that requires him to do his best for each of us. He knows what is best, and does his best to get me to see that.

It is a lonely path. I wish there were others on the way, but I've not found them. Maybe I, trained well by the past, haven't been looking deeply enough. Maybe I'm not adventurous enough in approaching people. Most are followers: if someone starts something, the others will go along, but the ideas, the spark, come from someone else. Maybe that's a role God wants me to play, and again the guide might come from sand sculpture. If I'd sat around waiting for someone to tell me how to make an arch of sand, I'd still be waiting. Unfortunately, experimenting with people is much more fraught with danger than trying things in sand.

Well, if it were easy, everyone in the world would be following Jesus. If art were easy, everyone would be doing it. Some things take work, and the more work it takes, the more likely it is to be important. After all, Satan sees no point in attacking us where we're weak. If he takes our strength away, as Lu hints, then we're dead in the water and sinking.

Thus, God's great care for these things that cause me so much trouble. They're my strengths. I wonder what shape they'll take on as the restoration proceeds. If you know, please don't tell me. I'd just get scared.

Oh, Larry! I'm so sorry I haven't returned your call yet!! When I haven't been busy, I've been hiding from the world. I'm sorry!

It's interesting that you mention Peter's steps on the water. God led me to the same passage the other day as well (which I blogged about yesterday). It is true that dealing with other human beings is a risky, frightening experience. Perhaps that's really what Peter's water experience is all about, in the end. He was the only one with the courage to step out. Everyone else stayed behind. Even in a place as filled with courageous people as Mosaic is, it's still a lonely proposition at times to follow Jesus' voice into the storm.

I don't have any answers for you. I wish I did! I'm still trying to get my own act together and continue on my own supernatural water walk. All I know to say is that you're not alone in your fear. Or your pain. Old wounds do run deep. The older, and more ignored, they are, the more they stomp around and insist on attention by throwing emotional bombs and walls and every kind of obstacle in our path to deep, meaningful human relationships.

Keep walking, my friend. Keep striving to hear Jesus' voice and follow Him into the water. You are not alone in this crazy journey.
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