Friday, March 16, 2007
You know what you call a fish that has jumped out of the bowl? Dead. Fish require water as we require air. What constitutes freedom for a fish? Untrammelled motion through their three-dimensional medium, in pursuit of fishy beingness? I don't like seeing any animal in a cage or tank.
God does call us to escape, and the world he calls us to is as strange as our atmosphere would be to a fish. His world is a kind one, motivated by love. We live in a matrix of hard-edged bitterness, self-recrimination, do unto others before they do unto you thought and emotion. It's how we're raised and it's how this world works. It's the very opposite of what God wants.
Can fish wear spacesuits? If an astronaut wants to take a walk she'd better be careful. She can't just open the door up there or she'd be in the same state as the fish out of the bowl. How does a Christian learn to live in the very strange world of God's presence? Perhaps it's quite simple. Just quit trying to talk God into the bowl along with you.
The bowl we live in is made of our own expectations. God teaches us to see accurately and guides us by heart and by hand. It's no less a shock to leave the place for being imaginary because imagination makes our worlds.
Where does hope come from? I've tried to leave my own cage many, many times. I've always failed. Hoping in momentum, hoping in hope, hoping that maybe this time... but no matter how hard I hit those elastic walls they always just stretched until I ran out of steam and then snapped me back to where I'd been, and in the process removed more hope. Eventually I quit trying.
Hope has to have a real object. There has to be something real in it, or it's just another salesman's cheat. Those who sell Jesus will promise anything so that people will convert, or say the right words. Then they move on and we're left with another person who just knows Jesus' name but nothing about how to approach Him. Hope can easily die again, as mine did.
God knows all of this. He knows us inside and out. He knows that just as the sun is ultimately the source for all physical life on hear, He is the source of hope. Everything else is human strength. Some people are prodigiously strong. Many aren't. I heard a guy on the bus the other day saying "My mama didn't raise no weak children. You have to be strong." That's fine, for those who are strong. What about those of us who aren't? In what can I hope? How can I achieve escape velocity from the daily familiar round?
Momentum and step-by-step programs aren't the answer. The only hope I have is that God won't drop me.
Getting out of the cage isn't really the hard part. The door is imaginary anyway. The world outside, in all its strangeness, is real. How do I live out there? I've gone one-on-one with the tigers out there and lost every time. What makes me think that I can win this time?
The Holy Spirit. He breathes on my worn-out spirit and asks me to take one more step. If I'm too tired to make a step he lets me hide in some music or a book. I've been doing a lot of that lately. I'm a fraidy-cat. I've lost too many battles to be sanguine about my chances. I decided that the world was compassed about by my own limitations, and I've simply squatted there, awaiting the eventual end. I've never looked forward to the coming day.
How many years can one live without hope? Some hang on their whole lives. I'd have given up long ago but for life being easy. I read some of the stories and think "If that had been me, I'd have simply killed myself." That was always my final answer: if this just gets too tiresome, I'll quit.
God kept dropping little things into my life to keep me going, little bridges over the problems. And here I am, still walking, and learning to live with hope. God is stronger than the world outside the cage. It's a very strange place. It ought to be horrible. It's a hard way of life, facing my fears and learning new ways. Every day.
Jesus has been there before. Unlike human examples, he's not asking me to do things alone, and he's guiding me through places he has already visited. He knows me. And he still smiles.