Saturday, November 04, 2006
Freedom, Heart, Dreams
Blogging is a really odd activity. Why would people put their inner thoughts out for anyone in the world to read? Why would anyone read the thoughts? For me it's akin to the beach phenomenon. At first I was nervous about making my heartfelt sculptures out there where any passerby could see and comment, but it turns out that very few of them even really see the sculpture. They look, but see only what's inside their own heads. My ideas were safely unseen, except for the few who see what's in front of their eyes. They're the ones who have changed me by asking questions or making comments that show their perception and add to what I know. My desire for this Blog is that others will read of my experiences and be encouraged to ask deep questions of God about their lives. Prevailing thought in modern Christianity is not to upset God with awkward questions. As I upset the sand sculpture world with my unique ideas and techniques I'd like to shake up the Christian world.
We grow up with abuse of all kinds. I learned to internalize that: quench my own heart so that no one else had to do it for me. So, God gave me this little image a few nights ago: my little heart inside a ring of stone wall, cowering, unable to move because it would get smashed again before it ever got near the wall. Self-defense taken to extremes.
The best way to defend something is to make sure no one sees it. No hint of its existence should reach the outside world. If it did show itself when I was a child I would catch all kinds of ridicule. I spent a lot of time alone. When with others I put on my normal-family-member suit and survived. Practice becomes habit and habit digs the rut deeper. God doesn't much like ruts. Jesus certainly didn't live in a rut.
There are no standard answers. Only you and God know what you need, and at the start you have no idea. All of my ideas have been warped by a lifetime of self-defense, self-abuse and responses to those. Life is a minefield I walk through delicately in an attempt to avoid blow-ups for just one more day.
Sand sculpture was a very odd foray of the heart into the real world. I can do--well, could do--things like this. The justification for sand sculpture was as an engineering exercise: can I do this? Once I proved that it was possible, well, I couldn't just keep doing the same thing all the time. How do you keep doing something you like when it has outlived its original mandate? I didn't look ahead. I just kept doing it. The feeling of my carving tools in the sand, the soft warm feel of sunset sand, being on the beach, I liked them all. Each sculpture was a sensitive bridge across another impossible day. Taken together, 350 or so sculptures bridged 10 years of desert living. My heart was along for the ride, nearly unseen. Ultimately that wasn't enough. I could see the end of the bridge, and that's when God stepped back into my life.
Hope for the hopeless, questions I'd always had suddenly finding answers that worked. Life started to grow again amid the desert. Instead of running I could stay put and see the garden grow.
Then I got a good look at what was going on. It wasn't just the desert coming back to life. God was touching my heart. I woke up and ran. No one touches my heart. The result has always been disaster. No one sees, no one knows.
Except God knows everything. In my more rational moments I knew this but I still tried to run. The timing was interesting, though. I'd been connected with God long enough, a few months, to know that being separated from him was to return to that burning desert and there was no more bridge.
I continued running. There is no rationality involved. Running from God is like running from air. Still, God respects the human mind, and if he's not wanted he doesn't intrude. Well, sort of. He waits for those tiny windows when he can get a thought in. As I wavered along the precipice he'd offer words that would guide my steps away from the final drop. After a couple of years of that, the result is surprising: confidence. If God won't drop me when I'm pissed off and running, he won't drop me ever. I said there was no rationality here. Rationally I knew that God would never depart; not only does he say so himself, but he has proven it by taking the first step in sacrificing his Son for me. I'm forgiven before I hit the road.
Still, there's no terror like that of a frightened heart. It's no wonder I'm frightened. No one respects the heart. Especially me. I want nothing to do with it.
There is, however, no place for a heartless Christian. I can't relate to God in any real way without a free heart. Human relationships can run in a kind of bastard intellectual way, and there are ways to act as if there's a heart in the works. This works for the same reason that sand sculpture works: no one really looks at what's before them.
I didn't expect God to be this interested in my heart, and yet I look back and see every step I've taken headed in this direction. He goes with the need, and I have been guided by his wind. If I'm walking with the wind in my face I'm headed the right way. Is it a scent? A feeling? It's very subtle, but unmistakable.
I thought I'd reached a kind of balance, a line drawn. I'd stay on this side, God would stay on the other. This is, however, why I've not done a sculpture in more than a year, nor anything else creative. Self-expression is impossible for me without a heart and I dare not make a move because of the self-judgment that awaits.
God believes he can change this. It is a battle I have never won. I've engaged several times over the years and been thrown out bleeding and broken every damned time. I have no faith that I can every win this time. God isn't asking me to win. He just wants me to quit fighting for the enemy. If my heart is going to be attacked, let someone else do it. I don't need to prejudice the case, nor anticipate the probable results. All he asks is that I take a step and let him handle the judgment.
I'm still here. 54 years old, having outlived the other male members of my family, largely self-maintaining, managing my affairs well enough to stay out of trouble. There's not much room in that scenario for dreams, but it turns out that I'm not well set up for dreaming because the source of the dreams is in soil that neither God nor I put down. Dreams growing from someone else's assumptions look a lot like their dreams. God wants better.
God wants better. That's why his start is in the heart. The future is a singularity, a white blank, a fogbank I can't see through. Surprises are certain. If I could predict the way it would look a lot like where I've already been and there's not much point in going through all that. I've done it. I know it doesn't work.
It's beyond terrifying. I don't want to go there. I want to be comfortable and am not terribly interested in challenges, but that comes from a lifetime of self-defeat. With the Holy Spirit between my heart and the hammers and flame-throwers, who knows what might happen?
There are, of course, lots of excuses for not walking forward. I could assume that all those Christians who talk about God abandoning them are right, and that God will simply drop me when the going gets rough. Statistics, a language I speak fairly well, deny the possibility. If God were going to abandon me he'd have done it in 1983 when I finally concluded that He doesn't exist. He kept right on guiding me for the next 20 years so that nothing final happened.
Then there are the events of the last three years, one marvellous step after another. The way led into terror, yes, but God put his hands where I needed them to enable this very timid man to go toe-to-toe with some of the smaller inner dragons. Small victories don't mean much in the larger scheme, though, at least to my skewed view. I want a once-for-all clearing of all problems, after which I can sail away easily into the west untroubled by further problems.
That doesn't seem to be the way. God doesn't care if I don't look ahead, but he does care if I hold his hand. Guidance isn't my responsibility at the moment. Just take the next step.
P.S. I hope you do more sand sculptures someday. If so let me know - I'd love to see them in person I live south of you down here in OC.