Thursday, October 27, 2011

A punch in the nose

Thumbing through music as I approach the last stop in the city—gas and groceries—I put my head down too soon and my foot down too slow. Traffic halts completely as the advanced green approaches. I stop too, only when my bumper thuds stupidly into the vehicle ahead of me. He must think I’m an idiot. I sure do. My mind goes numb, the shock of being at fault over something so silly. . . . He gets out, I put Monte into park, and await my fate.

He looks at my nose and his tail, then comes to my window. “I’m okay. Are you physically okay?” Why not ask me if I’m mentally okay? I’m feeling like the world’s biggest dufus right about now!

“I’ve got no damage. You’ve just got the imprint of my trailer hitch in your bumper.” I’m glad he’s got metal bumpers on his old pickup truck, those rock-like beasts of burden. Why did car companies switch to plastic anyway? Makes me look even dumber, but at least he’s damage-free.

I apologize, and he graciously accepts, gets back into his blue beast, and catches the advanced green light. I follow him, but when I see him turn into the gas station by the grocery store, I decide to get fuel after I shop. I’m too embarrassed to face him again.

Two minutes . . . they change the course of life. They shatter the momentary equilibrium and reveal how tipsy I really am. They rattle me loose from my moorings, and show up how poorly attached I am. They unearth folly, showing how shallow it is buried.

And the hardest part of the whole affair: he didn’t rail me out or tell me how dumb I was or ask what in thunder I was doing or what my problem is. He just forgave me, smiled, and got back on with his life. There’s no major damage, just a punched-out imprint of the square hitch in my bumper, eventually it will become a hole, and will look stupid . . . not wrecked, just stupid.

I hate looking stupid. I hate it even more when it’s because I really was stupid, not just pretending to be. I poke fun and joke and make people laugh, but really being stupid isn’t funny; it’s mortifying. I want to be smart, sophisticated, smooth; not this klutzy nerd who can’t even get out of the city without knocking the front tooth out of her car.

I stew in my stupidity. I expect Dad will be disappointed in me. I’m disappointed in me. I suppose God is too . . . I must embarrass Him so much. The pity party stinks.

When I settle into quiet tears, He starts talking. He tells me He’s not disappointed in me, that it’s okay, that He loves me. Is He laughing at me? Get over yourself, just let it go, let your demand to mentally punish yourself and control your own mortification go; just let go, and let Him love you.

I’m driving east. Out my left window the sky begins changing. Soothing green strokes rise gentle to the heights of heaven. Quiet, subtle, brushed against the starry sky, they rise and expand and deepen, till I am engulfed in the sweeping tide of peace. It’s like arms of love reaching around and hugging me, it’s the aurora borealis. I’m the child who tripped over her own feet, scraped her knee, and just hurt inside. And He’s the Father Who picks me up, takes me on His knee, and loves my hurt away. Not so I feel better about myself as a klutzy kid, but so that I know Him better as my loving Father. I think He expects me to be perfect, to shape up and get it together so I won’t embarrass Him for calling me by His name. But He chose me in my foolishness, and folly, and stupidity, and loved me then. I can’t win His love, and I can’t lose it, because He gives it freely to me.

And I am His. And I weep great alligator tears of happiness because He loves me, the silly, bumbling, scatter-brained me. And He turns my heart to Him, so I forget about me and all my issues, and rest in His embrace.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever . . . . His banner over me is love.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Soul Scurry

Quiet. Change comes, but for now, the moment of pregnant preparation lingers. Soon it will break, the silence shatter, the winds sweep us into transformation. But for now, we wait.

The waiting annoys us. This frustrating space: the breath before birthing effort, the still before the bluster, the pause before the next notes sung. Linger here, my soul, and learn the song of suspension.

How can it be that “stepping out in faith” requires me to stand still? It’s so opposite, so different than how I think progress works. We are inculcated to believe advancement equals action, stillness equals stagnation, pausing equals cowardice and ignorance. We know how to rush, how to work, how to drown out the noise and push through. We acclimatize ourselves to action. We stir it up, even when things are still.

Yet, we crave rest, peace, quiet. Isn’t every Westerner’s goal to enjoy sweet and early retirement? Don’t we scrimp and save and cut corners and burn bridges and squander lives so we can preserve our own?

Who has educated us in life mechanics? Who do we resemble in the “how” of our existence? What do we demand, expect, dream for ourselves?

The pause reveals it. Soul scurry: questing for substance through action, we go haywire in the maddening, quiet wait.

Whatever happened to the Anno Domini people?

We get caught up in Anno: the year. We flutter and muster for efficiency, always beating our previous goal, always pushing . . . even when we can’t remember why.

We forget the Domini : the dominion of our Lord. For those twice-owned by the universe Maker, life’s about Him, not me, not even us.

The pause tells us so. In it, the Creator says, “I am bigger than this. I transcend this dizzying chaos.” His priorities and proposals feel preposterous . . . till we remember that He is Adonai: Lord and Master.

We squirm and rebel at orders to “Be still,” till we remember Who is giving the orders, and why He can tell us what to do, and why we should do it.

The Creator is all about His glory, and our happiness. And it just so happens that our happiness depends on His glory, because He’s the most satisfying relationship in the universe.

And sometimes, He has to pause the movie a few extra minutes, till we are ready to hear, ready to acknowledge His priority, ready to be made happy by Him alone—not the thrill of the video or the crunch of the snacks or the comfort of the couches. This movie’s not about us; but about HIM.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Song of the Leaves

Dear Pilgrim,

Leaves scuttle and turn handsprings, racing rubber tires to the stop line, rushing to get out of the way. They laugh their way along, one great final fling in the season’s dimming lights. Their purpose served, their role played, their moment passed, and they fall like a curtain to close autumn’s act.

Why do they flutter so, when their day is done? Script concluded, all their lines performed, no more cues from phloem and xylem; no more prompting from mother tree, no more food. But they won’t die without a last dance. And the very winds that drive them from their trees become the music to their farewell jig.

Yes, they will settle into some lee or nook or grassy bed, out of the wind’s grasp, out of the elements, and there they will decompose, to give life to others. They don’t have life to fly in the face of their demise; but they still fly. Their green and golden dresses fade from the lights of summer’s scene, but they twirl anyway. They are going off stage for good, but they skip and tap dance out.

Why? Why not just fall like lead and lay where you land, and let yourselves be forgotten? Or why not mound and pile at the base of your trees, and make an edifice—however shortly lived—to your glory? Or why not moan and clog and haunt us with your death, menacing our lives with memory of yours?

Why? Because they groan with hope, longing for consummation. Their scene closes; the final act is yet to be performed. In life, they sing the Creator’s song, clapping their hands to His breathes of wind, lifting limb and hand in exultation. Now stiffening, they echo crisp and clear the song of ever-deeper life. They touched the sky in life, saw rain and hail and snow and mist, held bird and secrets from the air. And now they fall to earth, and touch it with heaven’s promise: little taps of leaf-Morse-code along the pavement, gentle caresses on grass that’s seen abuse and beating all year. They even travel to pond and ditch, where stagnant waters ripple with ticklish glee at their arrival.

Leaf’s demise brings the promise of winter rest, and the hope of spring. Trees always seem happy. I think it’s because they have learned the secret of being miserable without despairing, the way to endure pain without suffering, the way to die in order to live. And they teach it to their children, whose pods and seeds fly like the leaves and nestle in fertile crevices, spreading the happiness of hopeful labouring through a groaning creation.

In all your fallings today, may you reach for the hope of life, resurrection life, that brings beauty from demise, joy from misery, glory from barrenness. Listen to the song of the leaves, and take heart, because Life's play belongs to the Creator.

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