Friday, June 01, 2007
The Borderland of Sanity
Talking is just the first step home. Secular senses meet the Holy Spirit and reel away in shock. Then it gets more confusing. How does one judge a path in the spiritual world by using secular learning?
How much do I trust God? Do I really think he's interested in me? Oh, I'd like to believe that. He'd be about the only one. It seems too good to be true, the God of the Universe caring for me, caring what happens, guiding me to some destination that's his plan, my far dream.
Any follower of Jesus has a foot in each world. Physical here, spiritual in an unimaginable place but very imaginative. Jesus is imaginative enough to figure out how to live with us. My guess is that real sanity derives from contact with God. It's quite an experiment. Headed in the direction of becoming incompetent in this world, seemingly anyway, who knows where I'll end up? I have to trust God that it will be a place that I'm interested in, a life I care about. Beyond statistics, beyond the repeated assumptions, away beyond stultifying beliefs.
I know what Jesus means about dying to self. Turning loose of my rational guidance is the hardest thing I've ever done, which is why I'm very tired right now. Having chosen for the last several months to fight God's guidance, I've come ever closer to familiar oblivion. Care or die. God gets a grip on things, proves his care, and I run, fight, kick, scratch, demand to be left alone. He complies. Sort of. He waits as I thrash, inserting brushes with sanity when opportunity comes. The windows are small and open only briefly.
This may be changing. Never can tell. The heart is pretty desperately committed to its own ways, and the mind too. God has his work cut out for him, but it scares him not at all. He doesn't even think about the work on the way, seeing the glorious conclusion. I guess. I, at the bottom of the trench, see no such thing. Well, maybe that's as it should be. I don't do well with the future.
So, bit by bit, control goes to God. Or something. It's hard to put into words, this state of an independent human being, made independent, becoming more dependent upon God. He wraps my poor overheated mind in his cooling hands. As long as I care things go OK. Perhaps caring is the great key to guidance. What I care about comes to pass? I don't know but will probably find out.
Lightening the Future
God's sunlight produces growth that can't be stopped. If resisted it finds another way to grow. Years he will take, waiting for a moment's window to move forward. Always forward.
Whose forward? Who knows? I judge the future by what my past has been like: capricious, unreliable, things done arbitrarily, beyond reason. Things just happen.
I look at the track established by my past under God's guidance and the follow the azimuth forward, not caring much for what I see. But what I see is an extrapolation based on my own time in the Houses of the Partial God. The real God, the one against whose breast John leaned back in an image of relaxation I can barely imagine, the Whole God, well, I don't really know what He wants.
What do I want? The question is irrelevant. I want no more than what I get. Just take another step and don't look too far ahead. What's coming is probably worse than what has already been, so don't look. Yet here I still am, 55 years on, still walking. Someone has been guiding, even after my clumsy and destructive attempts at changing the direction of an undirected useless life.
How do I know what God wants? Assumptions are easy to find. Reality is more subtle.
How much do I trust? Would I rather depend upon my view from down in the maze, or trust that God's plans lead through the maze to something I will enjoy?
Enjoyment of the future isn't exactly number one on the list of things handled in the Land of the Partial God, but logic and history both indicate that enjoyment makes just about everything go better. Some aspects of enjoyment aren't all that enjoyable (every route has ridges and valleys) but might not God have a pretty good idea of what I want but don't know that I want? Might I like the situation once I get into it? I just anticipate pain, suffering and drudgery.
Well, who do I want to fool? With whom am I trying to make points? God doesn't care about points. All he expects, all he wants is my hand in His, and step by step. Maybe I can do that, and maybe the future will look less like a threat and more like a promise.
Futures tend to be self-creating. My belief that it's going to be bad doesn't make God's job very easy. If I want bad, well, it's easy to get bad. That leads in the direction of not caring, which is the ultimate weakener. Not caring is what crashed my beloved BMW R-80. Not caring is what led to wrenching my knee on the bus two days ago. Caring leads to strength. Where do I get the strength to care? Three guesses, and the first two don't count.
What's interesting is that this situation is similar to some other special ones. How do you cast your cares upon Jesus? Quit holding onto them. How do I start caring, or allow myself to care? Loosen my death-grip on "I don't care." The future is in caring.
We Do It
Of course, there's a funny aspect to this. Jesus accepts me as I am, as no one else has ever done, and yet his very presence in my life is the cause of change. Just by being who He is. Sunlight on the little plant inevitably causes growth. When identity comes from an unswerving commitment to avoiding the world's traps and distractions, change is a real threat. So many want to dissolve my thoughts, erode my resolve, assign me to their belief systems. The attack started when I was young and never let up.
Well, actually it did let up but it's very hard to get out of that old way of seeing. The attack could come at any time.
God is the very embodiment of the ultimate attack. What is the Holy Spirit in my heart if not the greatest danger of brainwashing I've ever faced? He could make me think anything He wanted to. I'm a mouse before the locomotive, defiantly waving a tiny fist, staunch defender of a kingdom that is, although nearly uninhabitable, mine.
Well, somehow God wants to make the kingdom no less mine but also His. Thousands of years of tradition say there is no God, at least not in the real day-to-day sense. If there is a God, He can't be bothered with one person's feelings.
But what is life if not feelings? We are of a piece, memory, intellect, emotion. We talk of muscle memory in the allowable devotion to physical prowess but what of spirit-memory? You walk past the houses of devotion to Elephant-as-Partial-Idea and eventually get to the ones who've given up and say the Elephant died some years back. The idea is foundational. You don't have to look too deeply into the houses of the partial idea to see the base layer is the same: We ascribe words to the Elephant but we no longer expect Him to wrap his trunk around us.
Well, remember John. Reclining against Jesus' very real chest. Fishermen deflected from a life on the water to a life on the land.
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?"