Friday, November 09, 2007


Sui Generis

One day a co-worker called me "sui generis." I'd heard the term before but saw only the "generis" part and assumed it meant generic. Feeling insulted I looked it up. Turns out it actually means unique, prototype, one-0ff. Good. The last thing I want is to be one of a herd, any herd. If I can't be unique then what's the point of living?

Of course, society has other ideas. It's easier to deal with people in herds. I wonder what a whole culture of mavericks would be like. Perhaps we'd come up with systems more accepting of individual differences. We do have common causes, but how much do they cost? Why should everyone be alike? We're not even made that way. Each person, each living creature, has its own set of DNA and experiences.

Four years ago I had a little lunch meeting with Eric Bryant. I'd recently been reintroduced to God and we sort of picked up where we'd left off in the late 1970s. Practicing God's presence, hearing His voice, not necessarily obeying. It seemed a radical concept at the time. Eric just smiled his little smile.

Maybe he really did know more than I did. To me, hearing God was about as far as thing went. How do you top that? It's like believing that sunlight on a leaf has no effect because we can't see what's going on. Give it some time, and assuming that the little nut holds its ground, eventually you get a tree. It will be like other trees, but unique.

So, I'm still here. The last months have been continuous arguments and dodges and digging in of heels. Turns out that in protecting my right to be myself I will throw everything into the fire. As I thought about my psychoanalyst near the end of that story "I'd rather die than tell you anything." I don't get even. I just leave.

I never could leave God, though. I did that years ago, blocked out awareness of him, and fooled myself. He stayed right there, though, parked in my blind spot until the time was right.

Now I'm aware enough of the effect of light on the leaf. Without light the story is short. God's voice...

You go along for years holding onto hope. There isn't much out there, but at the same time if you want to find it you have to be there. Survive. Surviving on one's own resources is a balancing game, profit and loss, expense and income, and knowing how much to abandon. So, God's voice whispers of hope and I dare not believe. He'll leave and I'll be the cartoon character suddenly realizing that there's nothing but air under his feet.

He didn't leave Jacob after their overnight battle. He didn't leave me during the years when I denied him. Once I realized just where we were headed I started trying to force God to abandon me. I discovered that it is possible but it's difficult and very frightening. I backed off from that but was still holding the fort against Him.

What's beyond the voice? Touch.

You know how sensitive a tiny sliver is in your hand: one quick touch is pain and flinch. In me it's worse as touch has always been the precursor to a lie. Its purpose was always to manipulate me so I'd acquiesce to things I didn't want to do. Touch overrides sense, logic, hardwired to something else. Needing comfort one night I was talking with God and the subject of touch came up and before I knew what had happened I was running, doors closed, head down, bolt. Looking back I saw God standing in the courtyard, inside the castle walls, but just standing there. I hid behind the stone. He didn't move.

How does one learn to trust? To me it's a logical process: if what I might gain outweighs what I will lose, then trust can happen. Or if the trust leads to having a grip on something I can fairly easily abandon, then trust of a sort is possible. Anything deep is a problem. What can be deeper than God's touch? He's always there, and knows everything. The game is under his complete control; I'm a candle flame centered in a tornado.

Solve the problem, we say. Force the issue. Force trust? It can't happen, as thousands of years of human history teaches anyone with eyes to see. How can it happen? Well, how patient are you? Most of us... not very. Solve it now. Life is short. Do things before you burn out.

What God wants, needs, is a real decision. Not a default, not a desperation move, but me choosing from real options to allow him to do what he needs to. A friend asked a while back, "Larry, what do you want?" I couldn't answer her question. It's a question I've never asked, never been allowed to ask, and to have God ask it of me is a problem and a surprise. What? I'm just supposed to latch on and follow, like a sheep.

Sui generis. Maverick. Berean. Questions. Live with the answers.

God waited. Where does trust come from? Certainly not from forcing the doors. I knew he was there, that indefinable glow or something, standing quietly in the courtyard. Waiting. I know he can smash the doors any time he wants. People pray "Jesus, break me." Maybe that's what some need but it's not the answer for everyone and I'd bet that the real answer looks much different from the people's assumptions.

I grew up surrounded with ritual and thought there had to be a better way. Ritual was a way to paint everyone the same color but I could see below the paint, inside that artificial and maintenance-intensive skin, and saw people trying to find the way out. The better way never had a chance as I'd acquired my own rituals that biased my answers. Kind of surprising, then, that God is the anti-ritual voice in my life and I so tightly hold onto the rituals that I trust more than I trust Him.

How do you out-maverick a maverick? Be the one who invented categories and is himself sui generis, the model for the concept. And you wait. The Soul Whisperer stands in the courtyard. We start talking about trust through the closed door.

Touch. It's the first step of a betrayal.
How can I comfort you without touch?
Comfort? That's a laugh.

I see where that path leads: crowds of people. Love the unlovely. I can't even stand myself. I just want to be alone.

Would God create a loner? I've always assumed that I'm a loner for various external reasons, but I've never been easy with other people. I've overlaid that with some social competence but it's always work. Might it be that if God had wanted someone to deal with crowds he'd have made me that way?

What happens when one loves God? How much of a person's nature is left after dying to self and following Jesus? Sheep, or human heart? I don't know, and as with anything else there's only one way to find out.

How do we allay the fear?
How about leaving the door open?
Are you honorable?
Tie a string across the door. That's enough to keep me out.
In the end I don't bother with the string. The door stands open, and God stands still in the courtyard.

In a world of big things and big pushes this isn't much. It seems that one step toward trust is learning that God isn't a raider from the northern steppes come through to level every city in the new land. What starts with an open door? Well, good enough to have it open, and leave it open even as I tremble ten feet down the hallway, wondering.

It has been a really bad year. I've set a record for ruining relationships and have no idea what will come of that. I am, however, still here.

I have missed this honesty, this authentic writing of your journey. I looked for you on the beach in Santa Monica, I know stupid but it just seemed like what I should do.

It gets scarier the more I seek and yet to stop seeking is not an option.....
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