Thursday, July 27, 2006
Resurrecting the Wrong Dog
It's a losing battle, finding a way halfway between the ruination of God and the ruination of sin. God turns a life upside down, the world is confusing, painful. I don't want to go there. If I wanted to feel I'd not have blocked emotion when I was a kid.
God is, however, a real artist. Not surprising when you consider what else he has made. He made the perfect fuzzy little hairs that so delicately decorate the inside of a mariposa lily in spring, colors and shapes balanced just so to bring delight to a seeking mountain biker who chooses to stop for flowers. Is it any more of a surprise that his plan for my life is just as elegantly and improbably constructed, event on event, idea on idea? I think I'm on the cutting edge, and he's waiting for my consciousness to catch up with the ideas.
Last night the resurrected Junkyard Dog went after both of us. Me, for the temerity implied in addressing God and asking for help. There are all kinds of things wrong with this idea from the rational point of view: who invited any foreign power into the inmost reaches of one's most guarded soul? Well, someone who's desperate will do so, but I have this problem with kindness. God has dealt with me only in kindness and I reward him by running.
You'd think this whole Junkyard Dog self-judgment issue would be peripheral to the process of making a follower of Jesus out of a sinner. You'd furthermore think that emotion was even more non-essential. But I was gonna be damned before I'd move off my own ideas before I was convinced they were wrong, and that's where God met me. Kindly giving me all these crazy ideas as fast as I asked.
So, I got it for being a sucker. God isn't kind. No one is kind. Go back into your shell. Grrrr. Snap, snap of sharp teeth, harrying. I'm slow but eventually get the message. I asked God for help with this mess, and ol' Junky promptly went after the God of the Universe. "You stay the hell out of this." Gotta give him points for being dedicated to guardianship. The problem is he doesn't know when to quit. Threats are threats and no negotiation is allowed, and self-judgment drives me from God. Seeking balance.
It's interesting that God didn't get angry, as my repeated implications of nefarious activity in my life might have produced in another. He knows that what's really going on is the desperate hope of a very scared child who has always had to fight for room in which to breathe. I'll even fight God for that. Too scared to hope that anything good could be real, too badly hurt to want to be hurt again, so kill off the hope and drive God away so that His offers of hope don't tempt me away from safety.
God has already offered the hope. It's written on the Cross in the blood of Jesus. There's God's idea of my value. Is he going to go to all that effort to reanimate me... and then force my inner world to conform to my parents' idea of a perfect world? No. He'll show me his perfect world, which is a very strange place compared to our normality.
It's a place where the individual soul is cherished, protected, guarded, nourished and allowed to flower as it will. What is God's will for my life? To allow him to live with me, and then see where the two of us end up. When I first proposed this idea a couple of years ago I thought it was daringly outre. Now I know it's routine, and the reason it looks outre is that so few people experience real intimacy with God. I have a much better understanding of this fear now. Being desperate a few years ago, I was willing to cozy up to God until I found out exactly Who I was getting close to. It turns out I was doing exactly the right thing, if for the wrong reason.
Desperation doesn't make for friendship. God wants me to move beyond desperation. This means facing myself and making real choices, instead of just waiting until all the alternatives disappear, and then taking the one path that's left. Emotion is an essential part of the decision-making process, as is open internal debate. I can't have either of those without getting the Junkyard Dog under control.
He has a long history, and has been highly effective in keeping me safe. I've avoided many big mistakes through Junky's automatic actions. I've learned to live with him, and I know where the threshold of judgment is. I don't stray over that border. Well, I didn't.
Then God started introducing me to himself. This is a meeting unlike any other I've had. He calls to me and it's irresistible. Like rain in the desert, like sun on a flower, like air to a bird's song. Life isn't complete without him, which is why the last year or so has been the deadest on record for me. Oh, yes, God can be resisted, because for all the false advertising, he's not a tyrant. He waits, whispering. Can you imagine the patience? Sitting out there in the hot sand as I thrash around, doing everything but what would solve the problem, bucking, cursing, laying waste the area around me, and he... waits. Invites. It's simply unimaginable, but it is nonetheless real.
I can imagine Paul on the road. He's steamed. He's going to get rid of these pesky Christians for good and all. They are an offence to his Jewish sensibilities. I wonder why God chose to appear to him as he did. Bam. Paul's blind. That would get my attention. But rather than physical blindness, God chose to work through a weak and battered psyche that was exactly the wrong type for the place I grew up. Psychologic blindness, that engendered a kind of sensitivity. For the Junkyard Dog to know when to act, he has to be exquisitely aware of what's going on around him. What a weird way to live. God knows the way to reach us.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
On Hearing Voices
I just finished reading "In Fury Born," by David Weber. He's the writer of many modern space-opera novels. Lots of action, technical thrills, fleets of huge spacecraft fighting over planets. This one starts that way: the classic Weber do-anything heroine gets herself all the tough assignments and comes out ever better, rising like a skyrocket in the service of the Emperor. Then she gets in trouble, leaves the service, goes to live on a distant colony planet. A few years later raiders come in, kill her family and try to steal everything. She gets back from a hunting trip just in time to catch them. One woman, 25 raiders, guess who wins.
But... she's mortally wounded. As she's about to breathe her last a voice comes to her: "Do you want a chance to go after those who killed your family?"
"It will cost you everything. Do you still want to?"
What follows is the usual story of space battles, but also the story of a three-way battle for a mind. I get the feeling that Weber is sort of poking a toe into new and strange waters. He could have developed this theme more, but what's there is still interesting.
What keeps me from being crazy? It takes time to learn things, and looking back on my life with God I can see that a lot of that time has been spent trying to keep God out of my mind. Only I am competent to figure things out. Anyone else is only interested in takeover. It happens all the time. Brainwashing of one kind or another, from radio advertising to a supervisor's hints.
It's all bullshit. There isn't anyone out there who is interested in my welfare. They try to come across that way, but selfishness rules and once they get a wedge in the door they can bring down the whole house. Lock them out, keep them out, stand firm unless you're overtaken by a tide too strong, and then try to be an inviolate chip in the stream, hoping to wash up someplace, still intact. Preserve the mind. Me against them.
Me against... God?
This is, well, different. For one thing, I invited him. I needed help, he gave it even if I didn't know what I was doing at the time.
Another difference: he doesn't seem to be interested in anything other than my welfare. He could certainly just move in and take over in a complete coup d'etat that would leave me unable to make any choices other than those that he wants. The power is there. I'm pretty flimsy.
One more difference: he leads with truth. He's not interested in forcing me in any particular direction by fiat. He teaches me truth, helps me to recognize it, and helps me fit one truth with another. This is frightening enough. He gets a little upset if I don't follow the path we've marked out, but he's willing to wait, and will leave me alone until I make up my own mind.
It's just such a damned knee-jerk reaction: mental invasion is to be resisted with everything I have, right now! God steps gently on the threshold, and I explode. "Go away! Leave me alone! Get out of my mind!" Sacrosanct... but I invited the invader.
He has been a most well-mannered invader, but still implacable. Truth has an effect. Like light, it produces growth in unexpected ways. Some truth I don't want and am not equipped to handle... on my own. Only with God's continued participation in what I'm doing can any of this work. So, my life has been pretty well paused for the last several months as I waffle back and forth in a narrow zone between freezing and burning. I would die without him.
I'll die with him, turned into something I can't predict. Nor could Alicia, in Weber's story. All the things God has taught me over the last few years, coming home to roost. There's a difference between knowing and doing. Who'd have thought that emotions really are important for living? Try living without them and you'll find out. It takes a long time for reality to grow to fit the prediction, but fighting it is worse. How much can I throw overboard and still be alive? I'm not very alive right now, that's for sure. Denial of self is a powerful tool, and perhaps only God can really teach it.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Notes on Music Players
When is a Windows Media Audio file not a WMA? When it's a WMA lossless. When I bought the Archos player I thought a WMA was a WMA. Nope. It turns out there are very few portable music players that support WMA lossless compression. Apple has their own lossless format, which Itunes and the Ipod support. So, they want me to re-copy all of my CDs to that format, and then buy an Ipod. No, thanks.
Format wars. Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD. Betamax vs. VHS. Each has its story, and the poor guy who just wants to listen to high-quality music gets lost.
The problem is that, just as Budweiser and McDonald's have taught people how to accept mediocrity in food and drink, MP3 players have taught people to accept mediocrity in music. We get used to things and in the preference for simplicity we lose the soul. The differences aren't startling. Budweiser does taste pretty much like beer, and MP3 is recognizably music. People who are in a hurry, or are easily brainwashed, accept them as reality. On extended listening, though, the MP3 winds up not being music. It has no depth, no fine detail, no discrimination.
There are hundreds of MP3 players available. I've found three devices available for purchase that will play WMA lossless, which kind of indicates that I'm not really a mainstream kind of person. Some others purport to be interested in quality; I even found one Web site that talked about portable hi-fi. His idea was to connect high-quality headphones to an MP3 player. His headphones would easily show the faults, if his ears could hear.
The government takes incremental nibbles from our freedom. The music business takes incremental nibbles from our music. Popular culture nibbles away at any concept of quality, and calls people like me elitist or picky. Well, I grew up learning what real food tastes like, so McDonald's just doesn't cut it. The first time I drank beer I couldn't stand it; it took sampling a Brazilian beer to learn that there was anything good out there. And music is too precious to filter through an indiscrimate MP3 encoder.
The data rate from a CD, itself already compressed when compared to an analog recording such as an LP record, is 1.411 megabits per second. The data rate of a professional digital recording is
4.607 megabits, and if they're using high-zoot 192kHz sampling, you can double that. Compare that to the usual 128 kilobit MP3, and you'll not be surprised that the music has gone missing.
The upshot of all this is: be careful what you're throwing away, and what you get used to. It's easy to go downhill, whether you're talking about food, music, or God.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
On Being Human
It takes a lot more than simply opening the door to get out of jail, it seems. Such as walking out there, and staying out there. Any ex-con has a hard time making the transition to life outside the Big House. This... is supposed to be joyful? Why isn't freedom more fun?
Normally a child learns how to be human as he grows up. They seem to be resilient. As I learn this all I can think about is what happens if I fail. You can't fail in prison: life is dictated, no decisions, a level so low that falling off is no big deal. Falling only hurts when you're up high.
Nobody fits a standard mold, but that doesn't keep human systems from trying to force people in there for the sake of convenience. We get used to it, and think that's the way all things work. If it isn't a duck, make it quack and walk like a duck, and it will be a de facto duck. Eventually you'll get used to it, and think that's the norm. This is a crime against human beings.
I guess I'm being de-quacked. I don't know what I am. I'm not the duck I thought I was but right now I'd rather quack than quake. That's no longer an option. God's hand leads only forward.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
A Balance of Cares
Today was rough. We have a new system that's supposed to be coming on-line. Somebody promised the mayor, who promised everyone that he would solve L.A.'s traffic problems, that it would be finished by the end of June. Well, several other things happened. We have only so many people; I work with a technically talented group, but there are only five of us. We didn't get the new system done. Today I got calls from many people asking what the problem was. I got sick of it. Finally unloaded on one manager and told him if he really wants things done he needs to hire people and then pay them so they don't just use our department as a stepping stone to the Department of Water and Power, whose electricians do the same work for about 30% more money. I'm just sick of politics. There's money for sex appeal--new big LCD screens for the Control Center that we don't need--and no money to hire technically competent people to keep it all working.
The result is, naturally, burn-out. Try to care about anything and someone will still cut you down, saying you're not doing enough.
And, perhaps, in the cosmic scheme of things, this is as it should be. I'm dust, the mayor is dust, we're all just dust in the wind, here for a brief time. Building complex systems, or knowing God. Which is more important? Ultimately, I was looking for a job when I found this one, so if they find my attitude unbecoming they can just do what they usually do with inconvenient truth: sweep it away. Find a yes-man.
I really don't know what I'm supposed to care about. Friendship? Work? Creativity? I've used all of those as bridges over the sharp points of years uncounted. Now the bridges are falling apart, the automatic habits no longer so distracting as they used to be. I don't care much about that, either. I sort of wonder how God will solve this problem. What, legitimately, is my role in this kind of life? It could very well be that the only way to really learn is to experiment, which has been my mantra.
I recently got burned on an experiment. I like music, and the idea of having a music device by my bed that would have a large library was just too attractive, and after thinking about it for a year or more, and doing the research, I bought an Archos AV500 video and audio player. The Web site said that it would play WMA audio, which I assumed meant Windows Lossless, because that's how the Windows Web site describes them. I also thought that a playlist would be a playlist. The first time I copied music to it, the playlist turned into a scatter of songs, and then I noted the playback rate was 192k. Further checking revealed files about 25% of the size they should have been, which explained the music's lack of subtlety. It turns out there's no way to make this gadget play real music, and playlists have to be assembled on the device itself. Dead meat. I wonder if I can get my money back. It turns out that very few portable audio devices will play WMA lossless files. Back to square one: a portable CD player and a stack of CDs by the bed. Yes, I'm picky. God gave me good ears. They're not as good as they used to be but I still know what music should sound like, and neither MP3 nor WMA is music.
So, you experiment and you get busted. Some experiments are far more costly than this one. My feeling with God is that I can't experiment because if I screw this up I'll be tossed, like a music player that doesn't cut the mustard. God is different, though. Whether the experiment fails or succeeds it's a learning experience, and that's how He sees them. Take the lesson and go on. The main lesson I've taken from the music experience is that my needs, as usual, are odd. Everyone else tolerates MP3.
MP3 is to music what Budweiser is to beer. Blecch. Experiment noted. I need a Chimay music player. It probably doesn't exist. Well, it does exist. It's called a laptop computer, running Windows and Media Player. Chimay is expensive too. Fortunately I don't drink much.
And if you think this entry is confusing, just be glad you can't see inside my mind right now. I think I need some music.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Friend or Desperate
Then I got that little "something isn't right" feeling. God doesn't really get upset but he does let me know pretty clearly when I've said something that hurts him or shows misunderstanding. Desperation used to be good enough. Apparently it isn't any more, so I thought about what might come after that.
The end result was typical: I ran away and hid. God wants more than desperation from me? I don't know what, but there are hints. Friendship? No, thanks. Too unclear. Desperation is easy to understand, roles clearly delineated. I know my place and don't have to make guesses about what comes next.
The problem is that desperation really results in slavery. No choice, no friendship. It's classic cult territory: do what I say, or else you die.
In a way all of my decisions have been simplified to desperation: like the end game in chess, I just wait until almost all the options are thrown away, and then do what I can with this more comprehensible situation. Out of the murk of choices comes one clear path. A slave to simplification. It's not bad all the time. Just that God is a person, and would rather have friends than slaves. A slave who builds his own cage is one step ahead of one in someone else's cage, but the bars are harder to see, harder to change because they're part of the structure of life. How do you teach such a slave freedom? I wouldn't even try, but God never gives up.
Naturally, this all scares me. My response is to forget about friendship altogether. Make things simple, comprehensible, and stay within the well-learned cage. The Holy Spirit isn't too excited about that idea, so there's pressure to come out of the cage and see a bigger world, and God's hand to lead. Lots of nice theories, but putting them into practice is the hard part. How does one be a friend of God? Is that tiger really on my side?
Monday, July 10, 2006
Time is Just a Barrier
What do I want? Right now I think it would be nice to find someplace dark and cool and just disappear. Not much of a goal for life.
More short-term, I want the weekend to show up. Work is inconvenient, frustrating, not where I want to be. But weekend hours pass at the same rate as our work and Monday shows up again. And Monday, and Monday, on and on.
How does anyone look forward to this? What would I do if given a choice? What would make my life light up? I have no idea of that, either. I'm well-trained: take the status quo and just hang on.
I never expected to live this long. Looking no farther forward than I had to at any one moment, years piled up without even looking for them. Somewhere along the line I gave up on the idea that life might bring me something good, and that I might be able to influence that to make it better. I'm not the believing kind. The basic choice is between accepting what is, or leaving.
I wonder what God's plan is. I wonder if there's any way to change the way I feel about the future. Is there anything left of the child's wonder and eagerness to run into each new situation? I know plodding. Running and dancing are for others. Maybe I'm looking for something that doesn't exist. Maybe I'll always be a plodder. Maybe God wants a plodder. Oxen do, after all, have a long history in transportation. Slow, but they get there.
The truth is that I don't really know what to think. I have pieces of a dream but no vision to hold them together. I feel as if I've lost the way, but I still feel God's touch and hear his voice. Is there anything better than this to look forward to? Is life something to get excited about? Children are believers. They believe that wonder awaits on the other side of the next sand dune. Maybe God is turning me into a believer, but, believe me, it's a difficult way.
Dealing with Despair
Just how involved in a person's life is God supposed to be? I kind of have a foot in two worlds here, one being the commonly held belief that "God helps those who help themselves." In other words, only bother him with the big stuff. The other idea is, "Cast all your cares upon Him."
All of my life I've just been trying to stay a few steps ahead of despair. I didn't know what the point was of going on, but the alternative seemed worse, so I just kept running. Everything I've done has been a stopgap distraction. I don't know what life is for and have no good reason for continuing. As long as the distractions were good enough it didn't matter.
That kind of untruth seems to bother God. He didn't do anything forceful. Just a creative use of cumulative fatigue that slowed my steps, and then slipped his hand underneath. "My, isn't that a big hole under me."
This has been going on for a time. I've been looking for an answer. What makes some people bounce out of bed in the morning, looking forward to new challenges? I just want to get through the day in one piece, and don't look farther than that. I don't know about that, but having that black cloud hanging around is no fun, even if God keeps it from enveloping me. Still, I believed there must be an answer. Some people look forward to living. Why can't I?
Maybe I've been looking for the wrong kind of answer. Does God really want to be so involved in my life that He Himself outshines the despair? I'm not sure how this works, but I do know that any time I discuss problems with God they don't seem so big. Rather than just keep running and hoping for an answer to come out of my own mind--something that hasn't happened in all my years--maybe asking God for help with this is not a big deal. Look at Jesus. He knew despair. His own father forsook him and he was alone in the dark night.
I'm not sure how this works in the real world. We'll find out day by day. Right now, though, I do have to get to work. I'd rather not.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
A Matter of Control
The God of the Universe, who made us. What does he want? What kind of life would a person have if God controlled him completely? Is that even what God wants?
Mind control. I invited God to take control of my mind when I couldn't find my way out of a familiar trap. He did help. I sort of assumed that everything was out of my hands at that point. Standing by for directions, but life has to go on. Where's the balance between what I know how to do, the things I do badly, and the things God wants me to do? There are all kinds of messages floating around, and it's easy to pick them up. God wants this, God wants that. Lots of noise and foofaraw. I've tried to walk a quieter path.
It's still confusing. How much motivation am I supposed to have? How much motivation does a "normal person have?" Lately I've been motivated more by a desire for invisibility and quiet than anything else. Just stay out of the way. My natural response to always feeling as if the roof is going to fall in at any moment.
I let God into my mind. He could really do anything he wanted. Make me march, pull a Job on me and watch as everything falls apart in my life. He hasn't done that. He has been quite gentle, respecting the boundaries that I draw around myself.
How much do I trust him? The shell is pretty thin these days, but that thinness, despite being scary, seems to invite God to be even more gentle than he has been in the past. He waits for my invitation.
Maybe that's part of it. He waits for me to see sense. I have this image of him sitting in the middle of a green field, grass waving in a soft breeze, the scent of flowers and trees filling the air, clouds sailing past. He invites. Sits quietly. Watches as I suspiciously prowl the periphery, tempted but afraid. God whispers. What is so tempting in his voice? The granite reality? That he sits there immovable by circumstance or my opinion?
How can this image represent reality? The God I've heard talked about is a real roustabout, rough-handed, demanding. How come I get special handling? Pure need?
Interesting, isn't it, how chickens come home to roost. Here I am living out ideas I wrote about long ago, and they're coming to reality. Amazing. Can I trust myself to hear what God says and not twist it to my own purposes? Maybe I'm just recasting the reality to make it more palatable. But I asked God to show me the truth, and I believe he does. Patiently, slowly. Waiting for my eyes to be opened.
Everyone gets a different path. For Paul it was a flash, all at once. For me, a slow walk.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
It was my assumption, at least. There's nothing like continued failure to cause one to back into the hands of brainwashers: any solution looks better than the abyss yawning at your feet. So, kind of like a rabbit staring a cougar in the face, I just wait for the final bite.
How does one rest in the Lord? What's that about? Resignation? Knowing one's fate? "OK, God, consume me. I'm dead anyway."
Why hang onto life? Why not give way to despair and just plumb quit? I guess the soul doesn't really want that option.
So, recycle the count to zero and start again. Where did I start? A cry for help in the dark, which was a pretty odd thing in itself. I'm just not the kind to ask for help with things that matter. If something's too heavy for me I'll ask someone to take the other end, but no one, I repeat, NO ONE is allowed to touch my mind. And here I blithely invited the God of the Universe to help me sort things out on a very confused day. It was a form of giving up, realizing I was out of my depth, and making a choice: turn to God instead of wallowing in mental turmoil for a few months as I'd done in the past.
I'd been proven incompetent. Drove the car as far as I could, got it hung up on a tree, gave up and handed the keys to God. What else was I supposed to do?
It's a long legacy, but I'd at least kept one thing to myself: My mind. No one else could touch it. My family couldn't, the schools couldn't, and, ultimately, the church couldn't. I knew there were problems but better my problems than someone else's. I'd seen many other people messed up by other people's interference. Not for me. And then I land in the same damned place.
Caring eroded. It was never that solid to begin with. When you learn just how powerful a tool not caring is it's very easy to just keep sliding down that slope... and drift. The best way to avoid being hurt is to be absent. Second best, when you can't get away, is to quit caring. It's not too surprising that I asked God for help: life was at an end, so what I had to lose? Last stop on the road to oblivion.
Old ideas, new God. I'm surprised he keeps working on me. It seems, though, that God loves honesty. So, I asked him about the tyrant stuff. He asked me when he'd ever been a tyrant to me. In actual action? No tyranny. He waits for me. But that must be me fooling myself, or keeping him at arm's length. All the teaching moves in the direction of God taking over. God, himself, seems to have little interest in overwriting my soul. He has been... inexpressibly gentle, and yet adamant. He never quits.
He simply holds his hand between me and the real end. "Do you trust me?" he asks. It's my choice. "How much do you trust me?"
"Not much," in some ways.
At question is an ability to care. My approach to life has always been to figure out what I can do without. Be prepared to abandon anything inconvenient: things that call attention to me, or make life more work, or return little reward. Do I need a relationship with God? I'd love to think so, but it seems I'm stuck. Do I want to care about Him?
How can I care about a tyrant? That's an easy excuse, but it's a lie. I may not care but I do try to limit the depth of the lies because that direction leads to real madness and misery. I wonder if God gave me a gift, back when I was born, for seeing truth? I may be able not to care, but I can't get away with complete lies.
So, who is God in truth? What veils need yet to be torn out of the way so that I see Him instead of my own constructs? What is human's life to God? Why would he care about one man's soul? He's looking for servants, after all. Don't need a mind for that, and not much of a heart. Just follow instructions. But that doesn't even work in human systems: show me a company or an army that punishes honesty and free thinking, and I'll show you an outfit going down the tubes, ripe to be picked off by the other side. This is why new companies bump off the old ones. Succession. Keeps the old ones lively, or kills them off. Ever heard of Digital Equipment? King of the hill in minicomputers, bumped off IBM's business, then they got assimilated by the IBM model, fat and slow, and now gone.
Logic and heart. My heart lags far behind in fear. I see the way ahead, I see God's examples, yet remember a lifetime of hurt. People never listen, just placing demands. God modelled after humans. This isn't true. Logically. Emotionally is a different story, and I just don't know how to retrain emotions.
"How much do you trust me?" Good question.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
How much of this is a hostile reaction to God's mercy? "OK, God, if yer gonna be nice to me, I'm going to turn myself into an idle lump of protoplasm. Just try to change that."
What, really, is there for an independent man to live for when he's no longer independent? This ought to lead to despair. My purpose for living is gone. I can't do it. Maybe I never could, maybe I'm tired after banging away at the same ideas for most of my life. Why am I still here?
I came to God expecting answers. It could be he has already given me the answer: I'm here because he wants me to be here. In a way my relationship with him is the answer to all the questions I've asked. I knew even as a child there was something more. I never trusted my parents, but I had this kind of crazy trust, or faith, that things would work out.
They did. I'm still here. I'm no self-determined fireball, but I'm here, and God wants me to be here. Still, I'm lost. Am I really supposed to just sit at God's feet and look at him, and converse? Is this a transition phase, as I learn what life is really about? I ought to be desperate, but what I feel instead is this odd floating. Disaster is just beneath the thin skin of God's support: if he lets go, there will be no end to the drop.
It seems so passive. Where is the room for my self-expression? Well, that's probably my own fault, in my pique at no longer being in charge. But then, I am in charge: no one else makes the decisions as to what to do in any minute or day.
What do I care about? I think that's a reasonable place to start in finding a purpose for living, but I'm not allowed to care. If I do start caring, I attack myself mercilessly. That at least explains the deadening: I approach God, get close, feel the warmth radiating from his chest, and then run and attack myself for allowing it. It's crazy. It'd be even crazier if God didn't step in and damp the reaction.
How does one live when one is not allowed to care about anything? Just what am I supposed to do with myself? Tangles within tangles. God is working at teaching me to care, or make me able to care.
Well, I know I care. Otherwise I'd have given up long before now. But how can I care, when the things I thought I cared about have been taken away? Independence, self-reliance, walking alone.
I need God. So far the purpose for this is still hidden. Maybe I'm afraid to look, or maybe it's an artifact of making myself small enough to fit my self-concept. The independence is gone. It seems like a big deal to me, but this state is the logical extension of what began years ago: I'm not such a good guide for myself, so need help.
I just never realized caring is such a big problem. It's too easy to abandon things. Survival by shedding what is too heavy to carry, like some '49er crossing the 40-Mile Desert. I'm afraid to care because at any time I could get attacked from without... and I'm guaranteed to get attacked from within.
So, I drift. It's actually not so bad. Some things don't get done, but the critical ones do.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Answering Kindness with Mistrust
God calls, I come, get too close, and then run away. I stay just outside of the cone of light he casts, not wanting to freeze, not wanting to get too close. Why doesn't he just give up? Years and years. But this seems to be something very important to him, which probably means it's, in truth, something very important to me.
How could one live for a relationship with God? How could one not? I don't understand it, but this appeals to me more than anything else. Gadgets are nice when there's a job to do, but... there's no human touch there. No kindness, no life.
I don't really know what the call is. I just know that my soul echoes God's music and I want to go to the source. What would I give up for that? What would I give up to keep God away from me? Currently I'm on the verge of giving up all relationships so that I can ignore God, but I doubt he will let me get away with that. I was taking a shower earlier, thinking about panic, and he just wrapped me in his kindness and arrested the run. Quelled the panic.
Intimacy drives me nuts. Run or stay? I oscillate, irritated. I want nothing to do with it. My soul cries for it. God calls and I quiver, undecided, but the issue is decided. Against kindness, my kind of rigidity just doesn't work very well. I have no valid criticism of God's actions. He has only ever acted with kindness toward me, and he makes me honest. I flee because of my own fears, not because of his actions. Rigidity dissolves. I can't hold it.
Jesus said that if you didn't die, you couldn't live. I think I'm learning what he meant.
Think about that for a minute.
When was the last time you hear a preacher talk about that verse? It has probably been quite some time.
Now, imagine you're at that dinner with Jesus and his disciples. You watch John lean back against Jesus. What do you feel?
The first time I read that I just didn't get it. It was in the Bible, something presumably true, but impossible to comprehend. Reclining against Jesus' chest? Who in our homophobic culture could look that one square on? I'm less homophobic than most, but I do know where the public limits are.
But, of course, the real reason for this kind of selective blindness is personal. God doesn't do this kind of thing because I neither want it nor will allow it. Of course, what that really means is that I'm dying for want of touch, especially God's. I roll along my orbit, distant from the warming sun, and the track is familiar, and I want no change offered because it'll be just another lie.
And it's impossible. No one talks about intimacy with God other than a few nutcases and mystics. Who believes them? Hair shirts, locusts, caves in hot sandstone. Real people live in cold brick and are never touched.
It's also a matter of pride. Independence. I don't need your damning touch. I'll do it myself, walk on my own feet or fail.
And Jesus sits at the table, calm, waiting. Whispering. Inviting. I look back at three years of experience and see that this is where his guiding hand has led from the beginning.
His current statement is "Learn this now. What's coming next will be so demanding that if you're not intimate with me you'll be without hope." It's not that I'm being punished. Just that life is demanding in many ways, and to touch God puts me in the way of more demands. The way things go. The only way to avoid that is to avoid intimacy... but oh, man.
His touch is unlike any other. He calls, he calls, and I come. Moth to the flame, junkie to the hit, starving man to the table, four-month rain-deprived Angeleno looking with hope to high clouds he hopes presage a storm. Deeper than hunger, deeper than gadget-lust. A tug on a string to my heart and I answer, crying with dread. Each step burns. I quake. I snivel. I fear.
God knows the way to my heart. No one has ever seen me this way. He could just cut off his touch and I would crumple, turn to dust. He knows my heart. Knowledge is control. Yet he asks for permission before doing anything. He invites, and makes the offer so attractive over the years that I come.
I approach, I run away. I freeze, approach, run away. Each time I get a little closer. What might it be like to touch God? What was John thinking? And yet God already touches me: he lives in me. The invader is there. Hardly harmless, but he has only my good in mind.
This is where words just don't carry the gift. Mystics have tried for thousands of years to encompass God's offer in ways that people can understand. Well, you can understand the words... after you have the experience of reclining on Jesus' bosom, even if it's just for a moment.