Friday, October 14, 2005


Where Am I Going?

One night, frustrated, angry, on the verge of tears for no easily identifiable reason--crying doesn't come easily to me--I yelled at God in the silence of my mind "What are you doing? Where are you taking me?"
He didn't really answer. Just pointed out a memory. "Being made into the likeness of His dear Son."

Well, yes, I do remember that. I just didn't expect the path to be quite this weird. The church lays out its step-by-step plan, and I, not knowing any better, buy it.

It seems that this weeks' Burning Issue among cutting-edge evangelicals is how to make following Jesus fit in with the trendsetters. The problem is that being a real revolutionary isn't very trendy because it might get your hair messed up and your Ipod might fall out of your pocket and get scratched when you lean over to pick up your latte.

If Jesus were to come back now, after all the churches got over fighting to be the one to represent him, they'd be assigning him handlers, writing his speeches and telling him all about spin.
"Say, we have to change your name. You know, 'Jesus' doesn't have the right ring to it. Too familiar. We need something with some pizzazz. And you're gonna have to lose the sandals and the robe. Oh, yeah, no robe. Send the wrong message. Not that I think you're queer, but you know how the audience is."

Jesus has already seen it all. People tried to handle him, and he knows all about being image conscious. The Pharisees with their phylacteries and ostentatious presentations were all about image. Jesus was dusty. Sweaty. Like the others who walked from town to town, seeking work or running errands.

I've never cared much for trends. I see myself as a complete square. People start talking about TV shows and I draw a blank; I've not owned a TV since the mid-1970s. They talk of movies, sports, politics, cell phones and I'm left behind. And yet, there are those who think I'm cool, because I follow my nose and refuse to let the culture dictate what I believe in. Most ignore me as I don't have the trappings, but I'd never get through to them anyway.

What do we expect? What do I expect God to want of me? Am I going to be a one-man ministry revolutionizing the world? That seems to be the desired goal, but I've always been a man of small dreams. Just one arch of sand, or another day survived, or a good Blog entry written. God doesn't seem to care how many people read these. He is just glad when I write them. He's glad when I don't give up for just one more day.

Most of the goals are set impossibly high. Thousands of Christian books will tell you the path you should walk, but I wonder how much of God is in them. Each person's path is unique, and can come only from a close interaction with the Holy Spirit. Truth isn't trendy and never will be, but it's the only medicine that really works. Lies may sugar-coat the situation but nothing happens. Cultural relevance is another way to wrap truth in cotton batting so the sharp edges don't dig in.

Without the sharp edges nothing changes. God is involved in very serious work, and only he knows how to do it. Only he can see the way ahead. He'd probably love to give me an advance ticket to ride the Reading Railroad, but he knows that unless I walk all the other squares, by the time I get on the train I won't know what I'm doing. One day at a time, which is a horribly unfashionable thing to say to the modern Church of Glitz. Only God can help us see the truth in our world that is made complex and fast-moving for just one reason: to distract us from the Living God of the Universe.

His voice gets lost in the modern din. I guess that's the best reason for cultural relevance. God's questions, his voice, go too deep. It hurts. Yeah, let's stay with the superficial things. Everybody come to church next Sunday with your baseball caps tilted up at 11.4 degrees, and the bill turned 36.85 degrees to the left of center. That way the trendoids will be attracted. Until the following Sunday.

Where will I be? Struggling to hold onto God's hand. I know where I'm going, but I sure am tired. I hope this ends soon. Well, not so much struggling to hold on, as... a complex mix of not giving up, holding my head up so I really see what's happening, but trying not to freak out at the size of the waves, and simply trying to get through the day without biting someone's head off.

Part of the problem dates way back to the first time I ever felt God's happiness with something I did. It felt too much like being jollied out of a bad mood, as my brother and sister used to do. I hate being manipulated. I've probably gone too far the other way: God tries to hug me, and I pull away and snarl. It's not real. It's manipulation. I'll do it myself. Grrrr.

But... what is the point? One thing the church is really down on is happiness. Get your facts straight, then meet life with faith, and then you can feel good. Or something like that. But some of us never have felt good. God tries to change that. I'll bet there were times when Jesus felt good: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." That'd send quite a glow up the old nervous system, yes it would. Jesus probably accepted it a whole lot more gracefully than I do. One more lesson to learn, and I'm tired of lessons, so I clam up and try to keep it all out. So that I can be true, so that I can know what I know to be true.

The problem is that there is no longer any truth without God. I don't know any touchstone other than him. Cut off from him I am helpless. So I bounce back and forth. If I were able to accept his comfort, feel his love, life would probably still be difficult but it would feel different. It might feel worthwhile.

My dear brother,

I know EXACTLY what you mean. I'm right there with you. Crying, raging, struggling to hold God's hand.

Hang in there.
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