Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Parallel Lives, Deep Holes
The first time I went in for psychotherapy, the therapist loaned me a book called "Loneliness." It was an interesting experience, both because Carlton had so quickly uncovered that ground state, and because the book itself had a different take on loneliness. Those who can't be alone have little to offer anyone else, the author suggested. Well, if that's true, then people ought to be flocking to my door. Of course, that's related to the "Shyness Paradigm:" Shy people are perfect for each other, but how do they meet?
One way is through doing things together. That's how Lu and I met: working like crazy to cobble the Mosaic Beverly Hills sound system together long enough to get off another celebration. Then we'd go have lunch and drape ourselves over sun-warmed chairs, and heave sighs of relief that we'd squeaked through for another Sunday.
Beyond that, though, there was little contact. She, and the others on the tech team, went their way and I went mine. If loneliness is expected, what's the point of trying to build bridges?
Besides that, loneliness did have one good outworking: there being no people who wanted to talk to me, I wasn't about to force myself on them and I turned to God. At first with delight, then with awe, and eventually awe slid down into intractable fear. To hear God is to be less lonely, but it is also to be changed irrevocably.
If you believe in judgment, then the God you see will be judgmental. If you believe in everything being rosy, then God will be all-accepting and nice to have around for the unsafe moments but otherwise forgotten. If you believe in kindness, then you will see a God whose kindness knows no boundary at all, and that kindness will infiltrate your stony soul, and your life will begin to change. Kindness begets love, it seems.
No hole is too deep for God to reach into in order to redeem one of his people. No slime is too stinky, no mess too big, no tangled weave of self-deception, lies and running like hell to put the past behind is too complicated for God Himself to reach in and start, one by connected one, as gently as he can, separating the strands so that the connections become visible. If you believe God can do anything, then he will start to do anything to improve your life, even things you really don't like. Which is probably why so few people really call God's name alone.
There is great comfort, I guess, in surrounding yourself with like-minded people. The modern "Mystic Nation" movement is one of the more absurd; mystics just don't gather in clumps. If you're in a group you're not a mystic. Mysticism, approaching God for who He is, isn't something that can be done with company because each person's path to freedom is unique. Each follower of Jesus needs to hold to what Jesus Himself promises. It's very easy in an Ipodded, cell-phoned, always-on-call world to lose track of the fact that ultimately all any of us really has is Jesus. No one else understands us the way he does.
That said... I know I'm doing things wrong. I'm too isolate. I need to be able to let other people touch me, but that's one of those threads that disappears into a big complicated mess at the heart of my being. To change is to die, and I've become very tenacious in hanging onto what I know works.
Lu throws herself out there at the invitation of Jesus and commits herself to buying a new car. It's a promise to her from God. I hold onto my fiscal conservatism and think only of pits and snares awaiting in the unknowable future. I buy good tools, but no luxuries, and I pay cash, and like Lu's father I have money squirrelled away in various places. This might even be a good thing ultimately, but right now it's really an exercise in self-righteousness, and it continues my essential loneliness.
One thing that brings people together is problems. I don't have problems. If I can't solve it myself I let it go. God wants to change this. I'd like him to do it without damaging my ability to take care of myself; nothing scares me more than being dependent upon another flaky person. Hence, conservatism.
There are signs of change. I've become rather noted in the Until Uru community for managing parties. I used to do this completely solo: I'd tell people what I was doing, and then I'd do it. But an odd thing happened: others came along, liked the idea, and volunteered to help. We're now a team that, every two weeks, puts on a nine-hour party for people who visit the Cavern.
God has many ways, and marvellous. If he can't use the door, he'll use a window, etc. I suppose self-righteousness is the best shield against God's kindness, and I've more than my share of that, but the Holy Spirit helps me be honest. I know self-righteousness when I see it, but I'm scared of change.
But I wonder how much of that fear has to do with the crisis-based "crash of rhinos" ideas prevalent in today's Christianity? Well, it's everywhere. Read any book and the solution to the problems described in the first 400 pages comes in the last 20, poof, and everyone is changed forever. Real life goes by petty pace. Change has to be lived with all day, every day, and I just get tired.
I wonder if this is what the companionship Lu desires is really intended to do: psychologic cut and fill. When I'm tired of keeping on, a companion would lay a hand on my shoulder and say "Let's rest for a while." Everyone else in the herd goes crashing on past, but I get a chance to lay aside my own self-righteous insistence on keeping the pedal to the metal, and my friend and I help recharge each other's batteries.
I don't know, though. It's a nice scene. The hard part is getting anyone in the herd to stop long enough to notice that other people are hurting.