Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Setting the Captive Free

Jesus told people he had come to make the captives free. Who is captive? To what? The idea of freedom is intensely attractive to me but it also repels me, or impels me to build intellectual walls against it.

I used to do better. My life was an uneasy, dynamic balance between impossible and daily hiding of what's important. It's easy to hide from people, especially when they're as willfully self-deluded as I am.

Five years ago God showed himself to me again. Hiding would never be the same; how do you hide from someone who lives inside the walls? We played hide and seek amid the ruins and I ceded ever more territory to no-man's land as I burrowed deeper.

Love is a bludgeon. I have seen the word used to wrap people in ever tighter bands of rules. "If you love God you will want to..." and there comes a long list of practices. If Jesus came to set the captive free, then what's with all the rules? Framing of reference, for one thing.

Five years ago I asked God to show me the truth. I expected rules, as rules are how I frame reality. Rules are like bricks that can be used to build just about anything. They're comprehensible and can be held and looked at. They don't change. Put one down today it'll still be there in a year or so. What I got instead was love, given by example.

This wasn't comprehensible to me so I translated it into rules. God became very creative in avoiding the traps I built of rules. He never did what I expected so after a while I started avoiding him. He'd answer any question I asked except those that led anywhere near containment.

Five years ago God promised rain in the desert, a feast for the prodigal, a celebration. I don't believe in love even when it's demonstrated, mainly because most of my experience of love is as a way of cloaking selfish lies whose ultimate design is to reduce me to a pale copy of someone else. I'd like to be loved, but even more I want to be myself. I have given up love in order to remain free.

God is love... and he came to make me free, five years ago. I've spent roughly four years of that time dodging, and getting tired. Is it possible to be both loved, and free? Words on one side, reality on the other. God Himself doesn't fit inside the words so I work to ignore everything that I can't comprehend. That's a lot of work. No wonder I'm tired.

The alternative seems worse. If I really leave myself open to God's thoughts, what horrible things might happen? What might I get dragged into? There was a time when I didn't worry so much about these things; I drifted along and life just sort of worked itself out. Life worked better then than it did after I put my hand on the tiller and started trying to steer. Perhaps
God had been at the helm before then.

Where did my directing lead? To the last place on earth I ever wanted to live: Los Angeles. Freedom comes in different flavors, and at least now I'm free of needing to worry about where the rent will come from. Freedom can be made, too, and in that I've just pretty much given up. It's just too wild an idea that God is really interested in freedom. Church history is not at all kind to this idea, but I think it's essential for me.

How does a rule-bound 56 year old bureaucrat learn freedom? The same way a pianist learns to play: practice, with a very patient teacher. God never gives up. A day, a year, a decade after the last contact, if I turn back in His direction He is there to continue the lesson where we left off, or to step back a few ideas and go over the ground again. This is the reality I have experienced many times. I'm not a trusting soul. I have been burned far too many times to be anything but closely guarded. God doesn't take advantage of my naivete, but waits, impossibly, sitting there in the desert waiting for me to put away the umbrella.


OK, now I will read the post.
you have more patients than me
you, and a few others, keep me hoping, we don't talk anymore but i still remember (or saved) every conversation we had...especially the last one when I called you while walking along the creek crying. thanks
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