Monday, August 29, 2005
You know that when you hear that, the "we" is just filler. Used because the speaker doesn't have the guts to put things flat on the table: "YOU have a problem, and YOU need to do something about it. The problem is described in detail and you're left alone to fix it.
Maybe it's a real problem, more likely not, being some made-up bureaucratic idea of a problem. Still has to be fixed, and it's in your lap. No matter how many other people are involved. No excuses. Fix it.
So, I'm lying in bed, looking at mountains. Somehow I have to find a way up and over. The reward will be more mountains, but it's still the mandate. You follow Jesus, you climb mountains on rough trails. One foot before the other. While fighting off the dragons that defend the high places, and carrying a load of old ideas, while depression adds concrete to the shoes.
The natural question is "Why bother? I'm going to lose anyway." Not much point in climbing mountains when all there is on the other side is another damned mountain. Might as well be on a treadmill in a gym. At least that place is air-conditioned.
I'm quite used to the "We have a problem" statement. Job, home, whatever. See a problem, fix it. Help is hard to find. I do it myself or don't.
Some voice whispers "We have a problem." A gentle feeling steals through my tense body. More lies? "We..." God speaks.
He knows whereof he speaks, too. This is no euphemistic, blaming "we." This is the Word. This is the conscienced brawler who saw the problem in all its details and would let nothing stand in the way of fixing it. "We have a problem, and I'm the One who can fix it." Jesus came into our world, muscle and sweat and bone just like the rest of us, and made the problem His.
I can't tell you how new an idea this is. I'm so used to doing things alone than any other way is a shock. I'm astounded. The God of the Universe coming to me, sleeves rolled up and ready to sweat. We.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Loving Father, Loving Son
What is a father? Good question.
Everyone talks about God as our heavenly Father, as if this is something wonderful, but what does it mean? Also, what does it mean to be a son of God? That's what he calls us: his children.
Children have a tough time. They're expected to grow up into convenient adults as soon as this can be manage, but like hothouse flowers they tend to fall apart under pressure. DDT kills plants by forcing them to grow faster than they should; the result is distorted and ugly.
If you didn't learn to be a child the first time around, God gives you another chance. Nay, he requires it. Go back, learn to be a child, then perhaps we can learn to be good adults.
It's embarrassing, is what it is. I never wanted to be a child in the first place. Having to learn it as an adult really shakes my whole world. I'm afraid things will fall off, although God has promised to hold things together.
Being a son... what does a son do? Run around, fall down, get hurt. For me, it stops there. I go find my own bandage and refuse to cry. Love is a myth that's very expensive.
What should a son do? Run around, fall down, get hurt. Run to Father, he kisses the wound, puts on the bandage and shows me the scar where he banged the same knee on a rock years ago. Nice image. I wish I could believe it. God is pretty well determined that I start to believe it, and as you might expect we have a difference of opinion.
I'm trying for survival, and love doesn't fit the picture. It's not on the list of requirements for survival; all I really have to do is duck my head and hold on. But that way lies oblivion: what, really, is the point? God is trying for love and life, head up, looking around, alive to what's happening. He is working on awareness, awareness of his love. Can I allow myself to feel loved?
That may sound like a silly question to you, but believe me. It shakes the very foundation of my being. Love has been so rare that I just don't want to need it. The potential for addiction is much too high. I've seen the results of that addiction: people who will do anything for even the thinnest simulacrum of love. I don't want to go there. It's all my mind is filled with when God presents himself and I know there is nothing to fear, that he will never leave.
And yet I remember. All those stories of long, dark nights of the soul people write about, their long desert sojourns when God seemed father away than Arcturus. How do I, simple, direct attempting-to-follow-Jesus-person that I am, survive such a thing? If God leaves me I will fall apart and drop into the abyss whose shore I've skated along all of my life. Well, maybe God has already left.
Perceptually, perhaps. Factually, I just don't buy it. What if those long, dark nights of the soul are more the soul turning its back on God than God actually departing for the better weather and more cooperative people around Arcturus? I'm highly trained in selective awareness, and when I'm really upset I can select out just about anything. Even God.
He never feels distant to me, but he often does feel inaccessible, and that, I believe, is my choice. I choose to close door after door to reduce the radiance that would otherwise skewer me and transform me. That old survival instinct again: do nothing to upset the status quo. Any earthquake is dangerous.
Well, just as the Pharisees learned, Jesus is the Earthquake Man. They fought him to maintain their whited sepulchre status, just as I fight to stay within the binding cloths I use for protection.
Protection is necessary. The problem is that mine is so inflexible. The more the Holy Spirit teaches me to bend, to be porous because he will protect me from harm, the more I fight him off because I just don't trust him. All that Christian imagery of the Angry God, tapping his foot, waiting for me to grow up already so I can do the work he's waiting for.
Hold me together, Jesus, but don't change me. It sounds absurd, but it's real. But to touch Jesus in any real way is to be changed. That radiance works its way into the soul and turns into rain. Plants grow in what was desert and the scorched wildlife comes out to play.
Threat to survival! How will I survive? Lock it down. Human being against Jesus, and I can win. Love requires freedom, and stops at the barred door. But His love has no surface tension. It seeks any tiny crack, and He is very, very patient. Love transforms, and he will wait until I become more like a son.
I hate spam.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
In the past, when life was simple, some of the things she suggests in her comment would have worked. Now... the best I hope for is not seeing anything to get upset about.
To touch God is to be changed. To allow God to touch me is to be taken up in a whirlwind into a new kind of life. No matter that he promises to teach me everything I need to learn and to give me all the tools and capabilities I need to live the way he wants me to, all I see is the tornado.
My life has been predicated on, and made possible by, very powerful tools of sorting and selective awareness. I touched the whirlwind, He entered me, and I am becoming aware.
I feel things I used to bypass. Depression used to be an intellectual concept: I knew I was depressed but I worked around it.
I watched "The Dead Poets Society" the other day, feet up on the desk, Powerbook running the DVD, headphones in my ears. The strongest feeling I got? There but for the grace of God go I. I could so easily have been consumed by a school like that, stuck in a dead-end situation whose only exit was a bullet. But some sort of innocent faith kept me one step ahead of that, God always providing a stepping stone as the one beneath me crumbled. This happened so many times that it can't be coincidence. Of course, one logical question arising from this is "Why me?" Other people do get ground up in social situations. Why did God choose to give me the way out?
Now I feel the things the boys in that movie felt. At least in some form. My response is to try to prevent this destruction of my way of life, no matter that I know its logical conclusion. I don't want to dream, don't want to feel. Then what do I want? To be left alone.
What would refresh me? Being able to get the hell out of this city, leave everything behind and live in the middle of nowhere. That's just a symptom. What I really want is for God to leave me alone. That path is familiar, though, so I chase my tail. I'm cornered.
I can't get refreshment from God, the only real source, because to do so continues that burning touch. I can't get it from anywhere else, because then I'm cut off from any chance of getting out of this mess. So, I just want to give it up and dive down a hole. Leave the change for the strong ones.
I was reading Alex's Blog the other day. Seems the big question now is whether it's OK for followers of Jesus to make lots of money. There are those who believe that if you follow God's commands, you'll end up rich. There are others who say that any money at all is a bad thing. History shows that the question is irrelevant; what God wants is your heart, and the money will follow. I have a hard time with fatcats myself; they worry about the color of the carpet, and complain when someone scratches the new car. I take a simpler approach: give me a car that works, and who cares about home decor? And then the Holy Spirit chided me a bit: at least those with the expensive cars and beautiful home fetishes have dreams. I have no dreams, other than just making it thought one day without trouble.
Perhaps it's easier for God to get someone who already has a dream to sign on to a different dream. I, without a dream, don't look beyond the needs of the moment, and emotions certainly don't fit there. Momentary survival depends a lot more on quick reactions than anything else, and I've developed a hair trigger. God messes with that machinery and I get nervous: who will take care of me?
Well, define "taking care." I mean maintaining status quo. He means living. The two have little in common, other than I have learned how to survive in a hostile world. Reacting quickly keeps trouble from happening, most of the time, and gets me out if trouble is unavoidable. So, He tells me not to quit, to hold on. No big miracle, no great ministry leaning on my shoulders, just don't quit. That's all he asks, and I don't want to comply.
I just want it over with. Wave a magic wand. What I get is daily grind. I'm tired.
Friday, August 12, 2005
The Junkyard Dog's Older Brother
Feeling good is dangerous. Peaks of emotion never last, and the ending is painful. Better not to feel it at all. I'm not sure exactly how I did it, but long ago I learned to chop the tops off.
I'm good at the cutting. Filling was a different matter. The result was a low average, and something that looked a lot like depression.
Well, no matter. Everyone's depressed. Live with it.
That answer's not good enough for God. He moves in and starts changing things. He designed human beings to live, not just sort of take the straightest line between two points and call it a life.
By the time I met him, I'd automated the emotional control process. It took him a while to get my attention; I don't like upheaval. I have a very strong tendency to seek the center and keep my eyes focused on survival.
I know God invites me to live in a wider land. I've seen some of it, and I want to be there. I take off running, doing what God wants most by simply following him, and then I run out of chain like a dog on a run. Bam. I get hauled off my feet and slide back into familiar grey walls of muffled confinement.
The linear, rational way, no ups downs or side-to-side. Laws. The way it's supposed to be. I am just plain sick of it, literally. Sick to death, and powerless. Psychologic cancer that eats life away implacably, and no one understands. The prescription is work, service, staying busy in a world that looks way too much like the one God invited me to leave behind.
I left it behind, and then it caught up. I'd try to leave my little grey hole, walk a few steps, and then this ravening dog would come out, grab my leg and haul me back. After enough of these events I asked God for help, and he muzzled the Junkyard Dog as only he could do. I thought I was set.
It turns out that Junky has an older brother, from whom he learned all of his tricks. The older brother is the archetype rigid controller, not allowing anything to threaten survival. It doesn't know how to quit, how to change its charter, when the survival it is guaranteeing turns into living death.
Naturally, I ran. I've run into the Older Brother a few other times, when the Junkyard Dog wasn't strong enough. Junky runs out, grabs a leg and hauls back. If I manage to escape that, the Older Brother just cuts me off at the knees. Inescapable. I've learned very well to avoid his attention, but moments of exuberance get the better of me and result in being felled like a tall tree. Wham.
It's no surprise to me, but rather embarrassing. "I'm sorry, God, I can't accept this blessing because it excites this old part of me that won't allow emotional excursions. Everything must be kept narrow and level to avoid problems."
You might think that God would become angry, and just smash the walls. That's the human way. God's way is to bring life back to the desert, release the captive, and then as returning life expands the horizons, help the captive remain free.
That's always the trick in any revolution. Initial freedom is easy to get. You can surprise the rulers and get away with it, until they get their superior forces organized and then you're dead. Remaining free is impossible unless there's some powerful help.
And who looks for help when it comes clothed in more rules? No thanks. I'll do it myself. Good idea, but that doesn't work either. To make a revolution stick you have to keep after it.
Want to defeat Junky's older brother? "Please don't quit. I want you to keep going." I see impossibility. God sees the way to life.
The older brother is good at what he does. God is better at what he does, no matter how impossible it looks to anyone else. I'm not good at anything other than looking for places to hide, and I've been doing that a lot lately. Internal conflict is hard to live with.
But God is gentle, kind, and patient. He knows I can't do this. He knows I have no idea even how to go about anything. So, he teaches me. All I have to do is hold on. Can we really defeat the Older Brother? God has made his promise to make me whole. The older brother is part of that. I just wish I could go to sleep and have all done overnight.
Excuse me, please. It's time to go distract myself. I know there's another storm coming; the older brother won't give up without a fight. Even a good change is still change.
God faced the same situation when He wanted to show all of us his love. His unending, fascinated, rapt love for the people he made. Jesus sang the words and we became. Jesus became the Word, and died, so that our songs could be restored. Jesus whispers His words into my ear: "Don't quit. I want you to keep going."
How to deal with something like that? Someone who, although He could have anything, wants me? As did my forebears in Jerusalem 2000 years gone, I try to kill off the blessing. It's too radical, too far removed from my daily experience.
I just finished reading Patricia McKillip's "Od Magic." Now, real Christians are supposed to redeem the time. Reading science fiction hardly comes under that severe and justifiable heading. God is much more flexible, however, and speaks His words through any source that's in the ballpark. This book starts with a gardener, listening to plants. It started me with a memory: doing the same thing when I was a child. It also started me with an ache: try to listen to anything in Los Angeles and what you'll hear is noise. Sad.
I have taken on blinders to aid in keeping my eyes facing forward. Survival is all. Sidetrips take time and energy. Listening to plants is an absurdity not in keeping with the rational lifestyle that seems so essential in this big noisy place. I have a job to keep, after all.
Why live? Brenden, the gardener, is content with his life. Then Od invites him to come and be the gardener for the school of magic she set up in a faraway city. He tells her he will go after the harvest, and he does. The collision of his silent magic with the rigidly enforced rules of the school turns the kingdom upside down. It wasn't a comfortable revolution for anyone involved, from king down to the gardener himself.
I want to touch magic. I want something far beyond the rules that have grown up around the schools of Christianity. Jesus is magic: his touch transforms. I need to be transformed. I'm dead, barely able to haul myself out of bed in the morning, and basically waiting until I retire so I can get the hell out of this place.
Jesus agrees with the magic, but knows that it takes some doing to haul a man away from the threshold of oblivion into the light of life and freedom. Rules just don't work. At the end of the story, all the improbable participants are standing in the king's hall, looking at each other, wondering how they got sandbagged by a gardener. At least they let themselves be sandbagged.
That seems to be important. Letting God have his way, no matter how impossible it seems. People make the rules. God makes life. Life is unpredictable, especially when God is involved, because our predictions are based on human experience. We set up systems to help people, but like that ossified school of magic, our schools become bone enclosing flesh that, as it returns to life wants to dance outside the lines of approved Christian practice.
How to talk of what God has done? He has brought, and is still bringing, freedom to a reluctant revolutionary. He won't let me crawl back under the rock. He just tells me that he expects nothing else; I am, after all, a depraved child of a fallen world. He has to teach me everything. Even how to accept his blessings.