Friday, June 01, 2007
Seeing the Elephant
To get there I have to walk past all the other houses, where people worship the Elephant as Rope, the Elephant as Snake, the Tree-Holders, the Fan-Wavers. Each holds a part apart and looks at nothing else. "Come unto us, son. We know the Elephant well."
No, they don't. They have an idea handed down for generations, a tiny idea grown around with encrustations of tradition and dead filigree. An idea of an Elephant isn't the real thing, a fragment of the Elephant just dust in a strong wind. How do you hold onto that? More, how can it hang onto me? Keep walking. If that's all there is I'd rather die looking for something better. If there's something better maybe I'll find it out there. It's certainly not here.
Keep walking, tired.
Walk on, even as vision dims and belief become tattered by the wind of years. Habit, if nothing else. Identity as the non-conformist sustaining when nothing else works. Footsteps uphill, just because that's the way things have always been, a mad parody of the fled tradition.
And then, inside a box that doesn't look much different from any other, there He is. The real elephant, and a memory of meeting Him.
How is a real Elephant different from the Idea of Elephant? A real-conversation stopper, that's for sure. The walk remains lonely. Having grown up with lies I know how to detect them, and also how to detect when others just aren't comfortable with the direction of conversation. A real God who walks into a person's life and performs miracles is a tough topic.
God, for all his Elephant-in-the-living-room reality, is a surprisingly gentle house guest. He invites a reply and waits. Not always patiently, but kindly.
What of real change brought about through contact with the Living God? Well, in my case it's panic time. Change is threat. Dependency is even worse, as people usually disappear just when the need is there. Each step with God leads toward greater dependency.
What if the change isn't what I want? Well, what do I want? I look in that direction and just see grey fog, the result of a lifetime of ignoring the issue. Who made that possible? God. His hand on my life from the beginning. Things will work out. They have.
It's still frightening. If God lets go of me I will fall, irretrievable, gone down a black hole. Oblivion is just one slipped grip away.
Yet God's outlook on the whole thing is sunny. Optimistic.
"What do you want," I asked one night. Thinking that I'd get a list of things to do. My value is only in what I can do.
"I want you," God said.
Another night I was thinking about caring. I've always thought that caring about things was the idiot's way. In that kind of elliptical conversing with God that passes for prayer in my life, I started to say that. "Not caring makes me strong," But in a way that happens regularly the thought changed to "Caring is what makes me strong" and I... paused. Not at all what I meant, but it didn't take long to discover that it's true.
Those who don't care don't last. I've seen enough examples in others' lives, and some in mine. Lots in mine, actually, times when I just didn't care that much, and bad things happened.
The question is, then, how to live with caring. Once people know I care about something they're given a free handle for manipulation. As usual I was wondering what I'd do about the whole situation. How to I live with caring? What happened? I used to care. Well, naturally, the Holy Spirit knows everything I care about and in this regard I feel his presence as a big rock about to fall on me. I care about such silly things. Music. Wind in the trees. The magic of rain in a dry land. The rare conversation that's more than unfelt words. I'm supposed to care about big stuff, but I've never been very good at "supposed to."
God wants me, as me. His presence changes me. Who am I? Glaciers frozen in place for years melt under God's sunny gaze and begin to move. What do I do about that? Jesus again rephrases: "What are We going to do about that?"