Thursday, December 05, 2013
Toward Freedom XV
I was lying in bed yesterday morning, managing to keep up with heat loss through the blanket whose electricity had been cut off since the day before. Maybe this state accentuated my fragility. No matter how chilly I felt, I'd be more so if I got up; I couldn't even make a hot breakfast because the gas stove requires electricity to spark itself to life. So, I lay there, thinking.
I had this image of God holding me. It's something of a sore point with me. Why do I need comfort?
In my mind, God's objective has been to get me working well enough that he can then release me and get on about his more important business. His work in the last few years has been to convince me that everything he does gets the same attention. More than that, he has never given any indication that I'm supposed to be independent of him.
His view of dependency is unique. He holds me, he keeps the sharp shards of my shattered soul from abrading each other, yet he encourages me to go on and experiment in ways that will call down the wrath of my internal judges.
Nothing another person does hurts me as much as what I do to myself. Making a mistake is one thing, and over in a short time. The self-judgment goes on forever, remembered mistake heaped onto the newer ones until I see no point in even trying again.
This makes any real relationship impossible. The tide window for sand sculpture is still open, so yesterday I headed for the beach, I'd intended to take more equipment, but the electricity was still out, so I couldn't open the garage. As I walked I thought about inviting the Holy Spirit, but spent more time dodging the issue than actually speaking with him. I think I still believe it's impossible that God could care about this, and that I have to sneak the whole process past him.
The sand was good, and the tide soon dropped far enough for me to get at it. I built a good pile and picked up my carving tools. I was still arguing about inviting God.
Who controls this, anyway? Despite the fact that, during the making of the previous sculpture, God had not made any attempt to take over the process, this time something like open warfare broke out, with my arm and hand the contention zone. Normally I carve. This time I was hacking away at the sand. You move forward with God, and attempts to move backward get ugly.
The argument was aided by the nature of this type of sculpture. Because the tide window opens later as the week progresses, I started this one closer to sunset. When you're out of light, you're done. There is time pressure. It was also cold. Only by some reasonably brisk movement could I stay warm. So, I caved in to time and cold, and worked very fast. How many seconds would it have cost me to stop and reconsider the sculpture, with the Holy Spirit slowing and stabilizing my flyaway mind? As it was, I got the sculpture done with at least an hour to spare, and I could have spent that hour making it a better sculpture... had I allowed God to hold me.
He always holds me. Whether I'm aware of that is what makes a difference in living. I'm afraid that his close holding will make me more subject to being influenced by other people, but I'm very, very tired of walking the knife-edge between enough sense of his holding to stay alive, and so much that I become his puppet.
The Holy Spirit was able to get one clear thought through to me as I worked on the sculpture: Friendship goes beyond being invited on the good days to do something specific and well defined. Real friendship is for everything and every time, even when I feel on the verge of disintegration. It takes time, and experience, to learn, and the process is stopped cold by self-judgment. Boundaries can be explored only by those confident enough that they'll be able to cope with what happens.
I don't have much confidence. That's why my independence is so dependent on God's holding me. If he weren't holding me I would destroy myself.
2013 December 5
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Toward Freedom XXIV
History is full of false promises of freedom. Somehow, no matter who starts the revolution, the benefits accrue to those at the top of the heap, who bear a strong resemblance to the Old Guard. People are regularly told today that Religion X (including Christianity) offers them freedom from their problems, but from the inside that fancy paint job on the outside looks just as drab as where they came from. Sometimes it ends up being much worse.
Satan, of course, has a strong interest in keeping people bound. It's smoothly done. Few people look beyond the surface, and there are enough shiny storefronts on the Mall of New Thought that people can spend their whole lives trying one after another.
My own story is similar, but the storefronts are replaced by my own ideas. No matter what I did, life after the "revolution" was indistinguishable from life before it.
Now, with the God of the Universe offering freedom by shedding the blood of his son, one would think living in freedom would be, if not easy, then at least possible, with reasonably steady progress made. God doesn't push. He is patient.
To my scientific way of seeing things, getting the same results from different experiments indicates that the common point of failure is... myself. God offers and supports freedom but I sabotage the process. I take shelter in various ways.
You'd think God would be disgusted by this, and come down hard. A human would say "Damn it! I've given you everything you need to be free! What in hell is wrong with you, that you can't see it and enter into freedom?" Surfaces, again. God is patient. Swimming in these deep waters is dangerous and requires skills I didn't develop. God waits.
I become disgusted. Why am I so afraid of upsetting God? He has already shown, personally to me and in history, that he's very hard to upset and doesn't hold grudges. Disgust is another way of shying away from real freedom, self-judgment being one of Satan's favorite tools of personal manipulation.
Of course, there's history here. In the world, one who experiments and fails is ridiculed and told to stop it. Stay with what's safe and known. Join the rest of the herd on their journey over the cliff's edge. Why repeat other people's mistakes? I'd rather make my own, which is one element that has led to a lonely life. I don't like being ridiculed. It hurts.
And yet, in learning to live with Jesus, I'm going to make mistakes. There are things I don't know, and experience is the only way to really learn what works in my life. I know this, but I still wrap my life in rules of my own imagining, that are supposed to keep me safe. My kind of safety, however, is a lot like building a cage to keep the monsters away, but then I find that most of the monsters are closed in with me. Claws and fangs as a way of life.
God has been extraordinarily gracious to me. He knows my real needs. He knows my expectations and desires. He threads a narrow path between help and overwhelming, in keeping those claws and fangs from tearing me apart as they have in the past. This is freedom of a sort, a start.
I still judge myself. I still find myself expecting God to behave in familiar ways. And life continues to be very similar to what it was. What is the worth?
Things still move, glacier-like. Day to day I may not see it, may just see the jungle I'm tangled up in. Life still moves, feelings come and go, and deeper things. In early November I was motivated to take my mountain bike to the shop for new brakes, because the original set had developed a very loud howl. The day was warm. I walked west from the bike shop to Venice Beach, and just happened to arrive when the tide was going down. There was fine sand, and a few mussel shells to use as carving tools.
I sat myself on the wet sand and built a pile. Then I used the mussel shells to carve a sculpture from the pile, and I tried to pay some attention to what I was feeling as I did so. Oh, man... idolatry. I usually close God off in these situations, as pleasure can't possibly be in his prescription for me. Loss of freedom, right there.
I can become combative. I enjoy sculpting. I went back to the beach a couple of weeks later and made another "mussel shell special." This one was unusual in that it was very big for its type. I told a friend about it and she asked "Are there any pictures?"
"No. I didn't take the camera." The camera I own is big and heavy. Like freedom, a camera is useful only when it comes with me. The next day I went to a camera store to look at smaller ones, and bought one that would work with the lenses I own. That Sunday I took the camera and some carving tools, walked to the beach, and made a sculpture which I then took some pictures of.
This was an intentional effort, the first in a couple of years. Ever since 2003, when God picked me up again, we've had an ongoing argument over sand sculpture. Do I, as a Christian, have any right to do something so useless with my time? God never started these arguments. I assumed he'd be against it, so I avoided bringing up the subject.
In avoidance there is no freedom. One can act free. I did a couple more sculptures. There was fragmentary freedom; it's hard to be completely unfree on a beach in the sunlight.
Given time, I do learn. One recent idea is that it's better to do the wrong thing with God than the right thing without him. Even better is to take a step into something more interesting. Before starting my walk to the beach last Sunday, sculpture equipment and camera in my backpack, I asked the Holy Spirit to join me. Fellowship, yes, and also to help me maintain a focus on trying new things instead of accepting sculptural defaults. I was still skittish. Does God care about sand sculpture? We're still discussing this. I know that he cares about the sand sculptor. And freedom.
2013 December 3