“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown into instant flame by an encounter with another human being”…… Albert Schweitzer
“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown into instant flame by an encounter with another human being”…… Albert Schweitzer
“You’re deep.” Thus commented our houseguest to me after reading my thoughts concerning her ongoing anger with the next-door neighbor’s manners behind the wheel. After my rejoinder, then, that it seems to be where most people put me in my pursuit of Christ, my wife posed her own opinion that she saw no reason for “taking the plunge”; and to that I suggested that, if someone was to place a bucket of money before her with the freedom to take what she wanted, she wouldn’t stop with just the top layer of dollar bills. Nope. As believers, we don’t explore any further than the surface for a couple of reasons. One: we are satisfied with the “membership card” already in our possession, all the rules and regulations as determined by our particular group printed on the back, entrance into heaven guaranteed by those who sit in high places. Two: we’ve certainly seen what happens to those fanatics who aren’t content to simply “occupy until He comes”, heretics adrift in their own vanity, trouble-makers insisting they have discovered new “revelation” beyond what we already know. In admitting to recognizing risk in spelunking the mystery, humanity, even “in” Christ” still humanity, yet I would point to such condition holding just as much significance for those satisfied with doing no more than “following the herd”. What we get in this is “a hook in the belly” and a stumble down the road, on either side of the fence held here in question. Yesterday I heard two sermons, both set into a warning for the church to “get ready” because a predicted shift of the Earth’s magnetic poles and the political state of affairs worldwide point to our departure being close at hand. Between those messages, conversation with a woman whose faith I highly respect, nonetheless informed me of her commitment, not just to “Jesus only”, but to “Swaggert only”, “King James only”, and the Cross “only”, in terms of it being the Gospel in its entirety, anything else unworthy of investigating. We are, indeed, a “peculiar” people. I plead “guilty as charged”. Sanity, for me, though, is achieved in a relationship maintained at an inner well, an attempted pursuit governed by His rod and staff, His tug on the anchor line, and trust in the knowledge that He has kept me thus far. In that, I believe…..
“If the God who engineered creation with such precision professes some whit of interest in what takes place on this speck of a planet, the least I can do is wander away from the streetlights more often and look up…..”
The above quotes were captured from sources now unknown to me, but represent where my mind, in almost any moment not occupied with some task requiring undivided attention, finds itself swimming, wheels turning, questions asked, answers explored, my days a constant journey down a path other than the one my feet occupy. One fellow, a friend, never fails to remind me how weird I am, the same guy who openly admits, having been “called to prophesy”, to now being held responsible for reaching as many as possible during any church service with “a word from God”. Nonetheless, his description of me is probably not all that far from wrong. Most people, in socializing with others, especially men, tend to turn in conversation towards business, sports, or politics. I found myself, last night, at a church dinner, seated at a table with four other guys, the topic engaged being pick-up trucks and how much money was saved in purchasing a new boat by bartering with someone else on Craig’s List. It was a last minute decision, made out of a desire to hear the guy scheduled to preach afterwards; but, having passed on the pork chop and baked potato and with my ice-cream and cake dessert already consumed, the old man escaped to the running track over the gymnasium, preferring solitude over the discussion before him. Do I not like people? No; it’s me who is the problem, if indeed there is one. To each their own. It is the mystery of it all that holds my interest, both humanity at large and divinity beyond the veil. It is the encounter I seek, meaning in the existence; and, while sometimes that no doubt means listening to your neighbor’s perspectives, enjoying interchange, each of us part of the bigger picture, we all remain individual in our identity. I just happen to be one of the “hard to understand” bunch. So it has always been; and so, evidently (at 72), it always will be…….
Beth and I have had a house guest the last month or so, an eighteen-year old girl whose life at the moment requires some assistance, mostly the invitation thus far being defined by possession of her own room. She sleeps here every night. Other than that, she raids the refrigerator, drinks my coffee, works a day job, and brings a little bit of laughter into our life with her personality. Last night she stormed through the front door, enraged for the second time in the last couple of weeks about our neighbor’s driving skills. Hopefully, her eruption was better contained while behind the steering wheel. This morning, though, a video shared by a woman who, quite understandably, yet mourns the loss of her son, had me pondering how, while hate and anger seem to be birthed in our head, love and grief flow from the very depths of who we are. It is an almost undefinable point, if you ask me, a place most certainly un-named in any doctor’s inventory of humanity as it exists. Psychology deals with the brain (as far as I know) and may well disagree with my assumption here; but, then, Jesus spoke in terms of “living water” coming forth out of a man’s “belly”. No; realizing that He wasn’t referring to a physical location, we can agree that evidently there is this “well” within us, a spiritual connection site where all that is classified as that “emotional” part of who we are can somehow be joined with all that He is, His love, His grace, His compassion made available unto us, to meet us in our need. This, it seems to me, is where the verse of above Scripture would encourage us to seek on a regular basis. Moreover, the thought expressed doesn’t just suggest our needing to tarry until He decides to show up, but rather a surrender, on our part, to discover a merger with Him. Those two words, “wait upon”, carry within their Hebrew roots the idea of being “twisted together”, two being made one. It is an “osmosis” of sorts, an “anointing”, temporary in its extension unto us, but lingering in that which it imparts unto us. This is the “boldness” we can know in prayer, in witness, in facing life as it comes to us. We just need to remember the oasis is a bit further down than the level we occupy most of the time……
My relationship with my church changed drastically over the last couple of decades, mostly out of a disagreement with where their theology (and mine) has evolved along the way. The two of us are still rooted in basic Pentecostal tenets. I just never swallowed claims of “divine authority” now ours to manipulate, higher levels of “spirituality” achieved through faith, this “one-ness” with the Holy Ghost being a condition we swim in at all times. Apologies might be due to the Charismatic bunch, however, in so far as me crediting them for birthing all such thinking in our midst. Thomas Merton, in “The Inner Experience”, speaks of men being able to be “completely transformed into the likeness of Christ, to become, as He is, divinely human” and quotes St. Irenaeus as saying that “God became man in order that man might become God”. Evidently Catholicism has been at least entertaining this idea for much longer than just the last twenty or thirty years. In looking for whom to blame, however, my own finger has always point to “humanity”, in general, not merely the name we hang over the door; and that, understandably, makes me part of the problem as well. Merton avoids my argument, declaring it a “controversy“ dead and done with, earlier contestants having become worn it out trying to determine whether our union made possible through the Resurrection was “acquired” or “infused”, or, in my own words, “permanent” or “temporary”. Yet when I read “the one who contemplates the divine presence is in no position to bring about its manifestation by any effort of his own, nor is he capable of increasing or modifying it by his efforts, and even, in some cases, incapable of preventing it”, surely he makes clear my own perspective, that, while our restored connection with the Creator remains vulnerable only to an “Adamic rejection”, fusion with the flow is a matter of our seeking it, receiving it, returning to it again and again in a stumble down the path following Him. Arrogance doesn’t equate to boldness; and faith, according to the Apostle Paul, works out of love, not mental calisthenics……..
My distant cousin lost one of her grandchildren this past weekend. Twenty-two years old, she died in bed, an unknown heart condition taking her without warning. Whether such loss is responsible for my present thoughts, I know not, but I wrote in some blank space at the end of the sixth chapter of Thomas Merton’s book: Soul – that part of “me” yet within an “embryo”, still being developed for whatever state of being is to be birthed after this existence as I have experienced it. Such image is nothing original. Others have suggested death to be nothing more, nothing less. It is that “life”, though, that holds my interest at the moment, the idea that each of us, in reality, is no more than a seed, the continued produce of that which was sown in the beginning by a divine Gardener. All of us are individual, genetics and circumstances, the journey, itself, shaping us as we go, changing us, not just on the outside, but inwardly as well. The above Bible verse is declared by Jesus as the first commandment and whether the positioning of His words, “soul” being set between “heart” and “mind” has any significance is, no doubt, debatable. This much, though, is at least worthy of consideration. The first is an emotional conscience held by that inner person, part of its person-ality, feelings born out of wounds encountered, love received. The second, as I see it, is a mentality we refer to as spirit, thinking centered on information gathered, but nonetheless nothing more than an extension of a working process, again, that inner person utilizing the brain. Deep stuff for sure. Too much to squeeze into a couple of sentences and surely more than this old man has conquered to any great degree. Interesting, however, that the fourth element is injected into the picture, placed there at the end as if necessary for any success to be known in our attempt to fulfill that which has been assigned unto us. It’s as if God is warning us the task is to be taken seriously, indeed our need of Him vital in facing what’s ahead; and yet what immediately follows is a prescription for us to find horizontal flow as a “pick-me-up” for vertical connection. The other guy is struggling, too. The mystery is no less where he sits. Together, we’ll get through this…….
My wife thinks I’m weird. Well, mostly because I’m always lost in thought, pondering one thing or another that, to her, isn’t worth considering in the first place. Maybe she’s right; but, to me, when humanity at large, and especially believers, seldom stop to consider their existence, content to take life as it comes to them and asking questions only when they catch a brick, they’re missing out on an important part of what salvation is all about. Theology doesn’t solve the mystery. Conversion doesn’t end the interrogative. It opens an oasis to which we might run, its waters able to meet our thirst in more ways than one. Going “behind the veil with the Holy Ghost” has never been restricted to some appointed prayer closet. Good sermons get clarified in the next step; illumination is worked out in a dialogue on a daily basis; and truth, in any way our minds attempt to contain it, is always bigger than any definition we assign it. It’s like looking at the universe and trying to limit it to our solar system, like peering into a microscope and stopping with an amoeba. Who has God in a box? That’s not to say there’s some need on my part to continually encounter miracles, to discover something new because what’s already known has somehow lost its “glow”. The wonder remains, because He, alone, is the attraction, having given me permission to bring unto Him whatsoever occupies my mind, having always been patient with my tendency to drift in and out of the connection. After all, this isn’t some attempt to “conquer” Him, but a desire to better understand me and this relationship that has been restored unto me. Grace, I have found, doesn’t just say “You’re forgiven”, but “Take me with you as you go”……