Friday, October 14, 2005
Where Am I?
Early on I became interested in the stories of explorers. Not the modern synthetic kind, wherein the main subject of the story is the privations and difficulties, so that anyone reading it knows that the writer is a True Explorer. No, I like the real thing: go out there to find out. Go and see. Orellana and his hair-raising first trip down the Amazon in 17th century. Heyrdahl and his hair-brained scheme about people settling the south Pacific from Peru using balsa rafts. Going to the moon in the journey of a zillion steps, from Goddard and his little rockets to Schmidt and his geology applied to the moon.
They all had problems. Orellana almost died. Kon-tiki was waterlogged and crumbling when Heyrdahl arrived near Tahiti. National Geographic explorers in Carlsbad Cavern praised their primitive torches because they illuminated just one problem at a time. Scott died returning from the South Pole. This is rough stuff. Put your life on the line and go. They died to themselves for the sake of learning.
Christians talk of cultural relevance and other baloney. Jesus wasn't exactly relevant to the Pharisees, and he died because of it. He spent 40 days out in the wilderness, alone.
I've been alone all of my life. I've tried to change that but nothing works. Seems I'm on a track that precludes company. Maybe it's because I don't understand human interaction except in theory. Practice is different.
And yet God is relational. Our world is relational. I set up overlays, methods of relating to the world. You have to do something if you're going to make an independent living. I learned how to act.
The act is dying. I'm so irritable these days that I can barely get through a day of work. Threadbare, tattered, end of the rope. The ideal solution would be not to wake up. Ah, I desire that. Just go to sleep some night and never come back to face another day in this damned abrasive, loud, sharp-edged ugly world that grates on the sensitivity that God gave me and that I'd chuck in an instant if that were at all possible.
John Eldredge says that the places where we believe we're weak are the places where God placed our strength. Or something like that. The point is that the world attacks constantly the things that God gave us, to drive us back into the hole and teach us to keep our heads down. If Jesus had believed in that we'd all really be without hope, but he died gladly! He just plain came down here, knowing what was to come, the pain, the death... and he didn't begrudge any of it. Free gift to us, who haven't done a damned thing to earn any bit of his grace.
It's this protracted death that gets tiresome. Just get it the hell over with. But the only way to learn how to live, or do anything else, is to do it. Jesus, even the Son of God, had to do this: tempted by the Devil after spending 30 years learning to live. All the while knowing what was coming. I can't stand looking forward to another day of simple work.
You'd think God would say "OK, enough. If you're going to grumble and complain, fine. Go back to Egypt. I'm not going to bail you out again. The next time you get in trouble, figure it out for yourself."
No, what he says instead is "Don't quit. Please don't give up. I know what I'm doing."
So, I ask him what the hell he is doing, because I certainly don't know. I'm lost, confused, and it hurts. And he says "You do know. You've known, right from the beginning. I am making you like my dear Son."
"I wish you'd go experiment on somebody else. I've had it."
That's sort of the central aspect of this. Trailblazers don't have comfortable walks in the park. Jacob had no one there to encourage him as he fought with God all night. Alone, he was. Alone, I am, as usual. Perhaps truth can only come out in the lonely times. People can be a distraction, books and television and music and games. Sleepless nights seem to go with being an experimental Christian, which is something those brightly-smiling emissaries from the Land of the Mushroom Eaters never talk about. They talk of mentoring, or discuss airy theories of which word best describes the great things they'll do sometime if they get all their ducks in row.
Is there any help for the explorer? Well, most of them do go in teams. It's helpful to have someone else around if you fall into a crevasse. They can pull you out. But who do you trust with the rope? Who will not fall asleep while you're wrestling with God in prayer and forget that you're alive? Who will pay attention to the subtle signs of hidden distress and not rub it in, but will rather just send you a kind word to help you on a day when you'd rather just give up? I have no idea. It's all a nice rosy theory.
So, I do it myself. Staggering along from weary day to weary day, hoping that someday the path will get better, but losing hope day by day as the trail stays hot, dry, and infinite into the future. "Don't quit," he says. Well, not much chance of that.
I am well and truly stuck. There is only one exit from oblivion, and this is it, lonely, severe, tiresome and confusing.
I'd love to rail against God. Job-like, I could turn on him and say "Look what you've done to me! All my capabilities gone to dust. You've abandoned me." But I know that he hasn't. That little thread that I can feel in the background is still there. The Holy Spirit still keeps life barely tolerable so that I'm able to keep going. Hanging by a thread over the abyss. Perhaps this is the core truth: the only person you can really trust with the rope is the Holy Spirit. Everyone else is just words. God acts.