Thursday, June 22, 2006
Midnight Thrash and Prayer
I asked God for help. There was no faith involved, no hope. I just knew what was coming--months of chaos resulting from suddenly becoming visible--and because I I'd seen other people expect things of God and he seemed like the only exit from the chaos, I asked him to still my mind and help me figure out what was going on.
The whole situation was absurd. I'd written a little story about a church, and the church's pastor got ahold of it. Predictable. And then he approached me and told me that he liked the story a lot, and why. Most people would welcome such attention from the mover and shaker himself. I wanted to disappear, and thought about crawling under the table. That would have made me even more visible. I was caught like a deer in the headlights, as several other men watched, mouths agape. I just put my head in my hands and waited for it to be over.
Attention devastates me. I want it, I can't stand it. I want someone to know I'm alive, but if they do they tend to disapprove of what they see. Old, old memory.
Another old memory: being forced to call someone on the telephone. I didn't want to. I was around five years old. My parents forced the issue, and I learned thereby that forcing things does work. It became the model for the rest of my life. If you don't want to do it, do it anyway. Good enough. I can make that work.
It sort of did. Well enough that I stayed out of trouble, but I was never any fireball in the dream department. I honestly just wanted to be left alone.
God comes along and I learn that we're intended to live as lighthouses on hilltops. Now, try to imagine what that feels like to me. I keep to the valleys, under the trees, and I wear a heavy coat. If I do something visible, it doesn't last. I don't advertise. I go through the day just hoping no one will notice.
Things are changing. People at work have been retiring, leaving me as the only one in the department who has the institutional knowledge of how our communication system is built. I used to work in obscurity. Now I meet with engineers and managers, and tell them where the problems are and what I suggest to solve the problems. I have become...
Visible. And it just sort of happened. Day by day. I imagine God moving things around, making this happen. Images of that forced telephone call, and my resistance to God's interference in my life builds.
No real wonder, there. He's just another parent, forcing my small heart to go the way he wants. Why should I care? Just march, or be forced.
That isn't God, though. We talked about this through most of the night. By the time light started leaking in through the windows I was so groggy I could barely get out of bed, but I was too hungry to stay. I ate some breakfast and bagged work for the day.
I pray in images and words. The image of that little boy approaching the black telephone. Memories of other events: places I didn't want to be, things I didn't want to do, forks in the road when I made decisions for all the wrong reasons. Where does the heart lead? What heart? A life lived moment-by-moment.
And... whence comes comfort? The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter, but my experience is of a taskmaster waiting for me, tapping his foot, hoping that this time I'll get it and start walking faster. "Come on. You know you have to, so just save time and do it now." I look ahead, see the size of the mountain, and just want to go back to sleep. "Wake me up when it's over, God."
So, what began in kindness and tenderness has evolved into rules and performance. Ruthless trust has devolved into just dragging along. And I remembered that hot night in 2003: "God, if you're there, please quiet my mind and help me understand." If God had been the kind of God I believe in now, he'd have ignored me and said "Figure it out for yourself. I don't have time for weaklings like you. Do the job, then see me when you're ready." Instead, he very gently stilled the whirl of thoughts that were tail-chasing around my mind. And then we walked through the incident itself in a series of images and associated thoughts. Together we saw that it really wasn't that threatening. Erwin hadn't said anything other than he liked the story. I hadn't done anything bad... Other than putting a lot of heart into a story.
The visible heart. I believe this is what will change the world. And I see God, although I'm not very cooperative, changing my soul to support such a heart. What courage does it take to support a visible heart? Heart in sand, heart in word, heart in the greetings I give people.
It's not as if the signs weren't there. Even when young I liked to go around our neighborhood and visit people. Until I got the impression that this was something that No One Did. I'm very sensitive to what puts sand in other people's gears. When they jam those closest get the blame. I stopped, and another piece of heart developed armor plate. It's even hard for me to write about this little incident. I remember it well, but have never put it out in the light of day before now. There are the beginnings of tears in my eyes. Tears for that little boy, tears for the man who can't reach beyond the armor of years.
Yesterday I was made a member of the Guild of Greeters in Until Uru, the online game I've been playing. Greeters do just that: greet newcomers to the game and answer their questions. Even guide them around the Cavern, if needed. People have been telling me for the last year that I should join. But... I'm just not much of a joiner. I finally did it because a man I respect told me I should, that I was already doing the greeting. And he's right. Another of God's little tricks: following the breadcrumbs I enjoy eating into being the Cavern's most active party organizer.
There was no force involved in any of this. I started playing music for a small group of friends. Others heard about that and asked me to DJ for other events. Eventually the next step was easy: start my own regular event, in the shape I want. It's a little social engineering project, to elevate the mood in the Cavern, and has proven popular. It's an event people look forward to every two weeks. It just happened because I like music.
It's one of the few places left in my life where my heart lives. Music takes me away from all the grey hard-edged world around me. I can imagine a better place. An expression of kindness and grace.
I wait for the crack of the whip, for the demands I can't meet. "I don't care what you feel. Do it anyway." God keeps doing what he has done from the beginning: gently sprinkling love into my life and waiting for the blasted, ravaged land under his care to start growing the kinds of things he knows are latent within.
Plants grow at their own pace. So do babies. Only adults expect to produce fruit before the branches are grown out. All God seems to want is growth. I think I might be able to do that, if he helps. A lot.