Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Tailbone Hurts

I've been sitting on a hard wooden chair for a few too many hours today reading. I'm currently underlining my way through Bonhoeffer's Life Together. Just wanted to share a few gems I ran across today, particularly in light of discussions I frequently get to have regarding community:

"It is, therefore, not good for us to take too seriously the many untoward experiences we have with ourselves in meditation. It is here that our old vanity and our illicit claims upon God may creep in by a pious detour as if it were our right to have nothing but elevating and fruitful experiences, and as if the discovery of our own inner poverty were quite below our dignity."

"The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God's love for us that He not only gives us His word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking."

"To cherish no contempt for the sinner but rather to prize the privilege of bearing him means not to have to give him up as lost, to be able to accept him, to preserve fellowship with him through forgiveness."

"Our brother's ways are not in our hands; we cannot hold together what is breaking; we cannot keep life in what is determined to die. But God binds elements together in the breaking, creates community in the separation, grants grace through judgment. He has put His Word in our mouth. He wants it to be spoken through us."

Just some food for thought.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Inklings from Moss Rock

There's a tree growing out of the water here, but I wonder which was here first, the tulip poplar or the riverbed. I am grateful for the wide-open respites that can be found not so far from my ordinarily inorganic life. And I am grateful for those people who are happy to lay with me on boulders overlooking a little creek and write about whatever is in our souls. Not even talk, just write. Through my fringe of unruly bangs I can see Leah's yellow pumps, Lauren's brown flats and purple sweater. We don't fit in here, but there's no one to tell us otherwise. This is our world.
Nature never seems unfamiliar to me. It does not exist as a part of a system where there are, innately, any high expectations. Sometimes when I go into a new restaurant I am all anxiety because I don't understand how the system works. Part of me feels like I missed the part of the game where they explained the rules. Do I pay at the table? Am I supposed to clear my own dishes? Do I tip? But here in the woods there is none of that. The forest could care less whether or not it feels my footfall, and yet it still feels so personal to me. It is what I wish it to be.
I'm not sure if I'm in this system or out of it, but I know I'm not above it. I can enter it, alter it, appreciate it, or destroy parts of it, but it can too easily humble me as soon as I might venture to tame it or capture it. The wilderness without so quickly tempers and overwhelms the wilderness within. I know it's important to feel small in this way sometimes. For this moment, this is all there is, and it is enough. So much more than enough.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." -Thoreau

I'm still breathing.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

When We Get There

I discovered this afternoon that one of my favorite people in the whole wide world has a blog. Sarah Grace has recorded thoughts publicly in a few scattered places, but I have found this one to be the most consistent. As long as I have known her, she has been a source of great hope and insight; And where she is eloquent in person, she is astounding in writing. I was recently reading an entry of hers that followed a line of thought we often travel when spending time together, that being the direction of our individual lives, especially as it pertains to the will of a very myterious God (of whom, I might add, we both find ourselves rather fond), and the risks and benefits of pursuing great and small aspirations. She had the following to say:

But what's more crazy is how much I don't pursue the things I dream about in my heart. I'm too scared of what I love. That is just no way to live. Like everything's going to leave me. I'm just sick of it. Life is waiting while I wait for it to leave...And I hide, too. Behind dreams that perhaps don't mean as much, but are more convenient...[I want] to be a little bit more free of the anxiety of a life that must have it figured out.

And I am a prime example of said anxiety - of the life that must have it figured out. Before I get there. Before I even leave here! I am frequently reminded of a discussion we had at DF about a year ago about the call of Abraham and specifically what God told him (and didn't tell him). Genesis 12 says that "The Lord said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." In the chapter, God goes on to give Abraham promises of provision and blessing, which were eventually fulfilled when his barren wife made him the father of a nation (I mean, totally what Abraham was probably expecting, right?). But any indication as to location, ETA, or even travel direction is conspicuously absent.

Later, in Hebrews 11 we find out that, "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a new place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." There you have it. He went.

So let's recap. God tells Abraham to "Go to the land I will show you (as in, I'll tell you when you get there. Or maybe, you'll find a clue at the next watering hole or in a joke one of your fellow travellers tells. Or even possibly, the location has more to do with your heart than with geography). And Abraham (probably not without some reservation) just starts walking. This is terribly difficult for me to grasp.

I find myself with this unignorably restless spirit, not a lack of contendedness, per se, but an underlying anxiety over the idea of being left behind, of missing out on the rest of my life. I also find, simultaneously (have I mentioned my ambivalent nature?), that I am paralyzed by the number of possibilities and the fear of not choosing the very best one, not to mention the fear of not having stable ground under my feet. So I sit here, weighing the possibilities, talking myself out of moving toward somewhere simply because I don't know where somewhere is. I don't even usually have a vague idea as to the general direction of somewhere (as if anyone travels a linear path). Ok that's not totally true, I usually have one up on Abraham in that I at least sort of have some tiny measure of direction. But the point is, I don't end up actually going anywhere. Fear is quicksand, my friends.

Of note is that control was not an option for Abraham, not when he was truly fulfilling this nebulous call. And it's not for me either, not if I'm heeding this restlessness that I have a creeping suspicion was carefully and intentionally woven into every single fiber of my being.

Cory really broke it down pretty simply for me when she said something along the lines of, "Do what you really want to do, and if you don't like it, try something else." Sometimes we just need people to vocalize the things we already know to be true. I've done it for others, and I trust they will continue to do it for me.

Oh, and I'll call you when we get there.

Here's an old (and semi-relevant) song from a little over a year ago that I wrote for a particularly dear former-Louisianian.

These days it seems like the hardest decision you make is to get out of bed
And the strongest contender to holding out hope is your own voice alone in your head
Who ever told you that you have to be so tough?
You're too wise to believe all those half-truths you hear are enough.
And it suddenly becomes very clear
That there's nothing left for you here;
This place has known all of you it can possibly know.

So I don't think you'll die here, but you know what you're doin' these days, it don't look much like livin',
And it feels like your heart and your hands are just filled up with sand, despite all you've been given,
You're a long ways above where you started out making this climb
You've got nothing to prove, you can come on back home any time
And if I can't bring you even a spark,
Then I'll sit with you here in the dark,
And together we'll bind up the lonely and cast it away.

And it's funny how you wake up in a town you've been living in for years
But you've never felt so lost
And you still can't believe that you find yourself staring down bridges
You thought you had crossed

So it's time now to let go of your need to know, and let your story write you instead
Remember, you are hemmed in from beginning to end, so you've no need to doubt what's ahead,
Maybe falling to pieces is all part of being made whole
Just to rest in the rescue of hands that are mending your soul.
And in coming apart at the seams
You are stronger than you ever dreamed
Because you are made up of the stories of freedom you've told.