Wednesday, August 16, 2006
It needs to be rebuilt, starting with the foundation that's sliding downhill. It is, however, the only home you have. The traditional approach is to call the bulldozer crew. Level the place and start over.
This is a human life we're talking about, though. Threadbare, yes, not working very well, but all that's available. So, God has to somehow glue everything together and then start rebuilding. It's quite a remarkable process, especially for one who sees any attempts at manipulation as an attack to be resisted with all his energy.
Churches and books are so sanguine about life-changing. All you need to do is... and there follows a list of simple steps. If change were that easy the world wouldn't be the very messy and non-functional place it is right now. The process is actually fraught with risk, pain, problems, setbacks, back-and-forthing, ups and downs and ins and outs.
Change is a threat. I grew up needing to defend myself against all comers. They weren't interested in me, but in getting me to do things. If I didn't look out I'd end up just like them.
Well, I've ended up like them anyway. God offers freedom, I see his work as a threat, and automatically go into self-defense mode.
What's really interesting is that he doesn't step up the power. He just waits. Any lesser god would call for the bulldozer crew. Break. Bash. Tear it down. Revolution. Blow it up. God is unique. It's no threat to him that I don't obey. He knows what's best, and he waits. His glue slowly infiltrates, and where he's permitted he works to change the damaged parts so that they work better.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
kindness is a gift
I hate being suckered. The one doing it always gloats, even when they're taking advantage of one's simple lack of specific knowledge. Ignorance is not stupidity: everyone passes through the times of not knowing; how one deals with that is the real sign. Everyone's a sucker once, sadly, and those with good memories take the lesson to heart and start building defenses.
Then God comes along, arms open, saying "Trust me." Yeah, right. Especially when the impossible promises come along: "My yoke is easy, my burden light. Cast all your cares upon him, for he cares for you." The dream implied in every adolescent love song: "I'll be there for you." How much of this can we absorb, how many lies, before just closing out the words and going our own way? Memories of failures.
How many people would stay around for years of doubting? Jesus told Thomas to touch his hands and feet, to know with his fingers that Jesus had been killed and then risen, and this was he in front of the doubters, warm and living. Come to me and touch.
Well, that part's pretty easy. Despite the fact that history holds a lot more examples of people believing in a hard, cold, distant, judging God, the first few weeks of a new believer's life are kind of magical. What was myth now walks with the follower of Jesus. Then the world's pressure encroaches, banging on the dream, reinforcing memory. It has to be one sturdy dream to hold up under the doubters all around. I've always prided myself in walking my own way, but even I feel the pressure to conform if only to avoid excessive notice. "Come on. You don't really believe God is real, do you?" Belief is for simpletons, idiots, the credulous... children. "Except you become as a little child, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
Children believe easily. The moon is made of green cheese, witches fly on broomsticks, magic awaits around every corner. God comes to us and says there is magic, dreams can come true, but the adult point of view is that dreams are dead and that life is just grinding out the years. Autobiographical, here. God offers a new idea, and I, not wanting to be suckered, resist.
This does not change God's actions in the least. He goes on being himself, steadfast, waiting, inserting his ideas whenever a window opens through the stone around my heart. His love is always there.
I really know nothing of operational kindness except that demonstrated by God. I'm sure that other people have expressed kindness to me but it's too dangerous to realize. I might get to the point of needing it, wanting it, and those oases of hope and kindness are very rare in the long desert. Better to maintain my adaptation to the waterless waste of years.
God rains on me and I put up an umbrella. Human beings would give up. God keeps raining. He doesn't acknowledge hopelessness and is willing to keep doing what he can to... change my mind. Slowly, oh so slowly, I learn that His rain won't stop. He won't withdraw his gift just because I, in a long-standing mistrustful pique, refuse it. There's always tomorrow. And the day after that.
How do you prove that you're trustworthy? Look at any politician, and do the opposite. Be who you are at all times, no matter who's looking. This is really what "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever" means. He's looking at His Father. The Father is looking at all of time. I look all over, anywhere but Him, expecting that well-trained judgment if he ever notices me. Well, he notices me all the time and sorrows when I repudiate his words and do things my way.
The world isn't really made the way I think it is, but my assumptions fit with many of the functional characteristics. Safety comes from not being on the far end. What might safety look like if I could trust the presence of greater emotional resources than I've ever carried? What might I do if I didn't fear coming apart at any moment? The only way to find out is to grow into trusting God to hold me even when I don't like him.
Starting From Kindness
If God weren't kind, His Son could have stayed home. Yet the first assumption in people's minds when they hear the word "God" is "judgment." Guilt comes along for the ride.
There are wolves out there who will tear at the kindness of people. Kindness leaves the doors open. God sees the world in different terms. No matter what the wolves do to His Name or His Son, He remains Himself. He heaps kindness on the wayward. The wolves have chosen, and God has also chosen. We all live by our choices.
It's a more subtle matter than I at first thought. God's quiet kindness reaches deep, affecting everything in me. Sometimes I get it, but sometimes I ignore Him.
He's not upset with me for ignoring Him. He's more hurt than anything else; one analogy is cutting the umbilical cord to the fetus. I've become so good at living without God that the feeling of living with Him is very strange and very threatening. All the things I have feared for all of my life are coming to pass, and I don't know how to live with them.
Is this kindness? Taking over a life and rearranging it? Moving me into a very strange place where emotions become real instead of some distant hint of a theory? God has explained, over and over, the reasons for doing so. There is no real life with God unless one is a whole human being, and I'm far from whole. I'm a sort of kernel of something or other, around which is wrapped parental instruction, and over that is the layer of my own manipulations. I assume the kernel is there. What is it? What kind of person am I, really?
There are people's opinions all over the place. They don't count for much because I won't let them. My own opinion is uniformly bad, which is why I work so hard at distraction. God's opinion threatens the whole flimsy, shaky, jury-rigged structure, but calls to me with the hints of truth that I've always sought.
I like truth. Truth doesn't stab you in the back. It changes through time, and there are surprises, but the underlying truth is solid gold, never rusting. You can build with it. The process of finding truth becomes interesting when the path diverges from that of everyone else, but given the choice between lots of acquaintances and truth I've always chosen truth. Perhaps to avoid the complications of emotions as for any other reason.
Now all of this is changing. I don't see the world as I used to, and the only reason I can endure any of this crap is that God's kindness is unchanging. That's one truth I will hold onto, as it's all I have to make life worth going on with day by day.