Friday, January 28, 2011

This is how I think

Yesterday I wrote this on a paper towel at work. It's weird, but it's how I think and I am posting it as an interesting example of what my mind looks like.

I am sitting at a window on the second story looking out over the street below and it's dusty not the kind of dusty that you can mop off but the kind of dusty where you know it has become part of the glass muddling the whole view but also making it more realistic because isn't everything a little bit permanently dusty and I am leaning in in in in in and trying to make out the shapes that I know are clear on the other side but they just aren't coming into focus so maybe I need new glasses or something or maybe just some new perspective because I was told this would be clearer and it's just not. I strain my eyes leaning in in in in and without realizing it was coming I bump my head on the glass so hard because I was trying to make sense of the blurriness and I pull away feeling cold tears down my cheeks because I am so frustrated and I start to laugh too which is always what I do when I cry over something that isn't even that sad and also the knot on my head now smarts and I just cry and laugh because it works right here and sit back in my chair and want to forget the window because who likes a damn dusty window anyway but I know that window is the key to everything and the source of everything and so I lean in in in in as the tears stream and I start over knowing that I am never going to see through the dustiness but that the shapes on the other side are clear...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Necessary Specificity.

Disclaimer: These are the first words I have read—let alone written—in about a week thanks to the classic cough/cold/flu that only a cold, snowy January could bring. So, if this entry is lacking, or if it tastes of Nyquil and boredom, blame my intellectual muscles recently gone to seed, not me.

That being said, today I feel compelled, in fact I feel pulled (that moment your soul might die if you don’t spit it out), to write about specifics. Specifics, you say? That seems odd. Considering we live in an age that celebrates generalities and scorns “the agenda” like the bubonic plague, how dare I try and give commentary on the frightening necessity of specifics?

Hmm. Honestly, I must talk about them because I myself am frightened of them. I don’t think I have ever realized how scared I am of specifics until pretty recently. This fear is a reality that has been manifesting itself in my thoughts, actions, and mindsets for the last half a year or so, but it has manifested itself quietly and subtly, like any good ailment of the soul worth mentioning.

What do I mean by specifics? And why are they scary? For me, specifics are generalities come alive. This “organic-ness” makes them potent. Only in the specific can there be real life, but there we also must open ourselves up to the fact that there will also be (as with all organic things) death. Let me explain (maybe).

 Let’s start with an “easy specific” like a favorite movie or book. We subconsciously require certain qualities in such forms of entertainment that eventually become evident when we are faced with our own brand of perfection. Since this is my “game” I will use my favorite book, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. This book has it all for me: delightful, humorous prose; challenging themes; deep, relevant characters (because we are all Scrooge, people); and, most importantly, the call for social change with the presentation of irrefutable and uncomfortable truths. I never really knew exactly what I was looking for in a favorite book, just that when I read this one, I had found it.

However, favorite books can change and should change. Otherwise we would all still be singing the praises of the intellectually stimulating: “Pat the Bunny.”  A more concrete human example would be falling in love. This is a more costly specific. The moment that one realizes that it’s not about a list of qualities or a relationship status, but about a person. Oh man, it is a…formidable…thing when the concept of love becomes person-specific. It’s a wonderful and wounding place to be when one is faced with all the attributes one never even knew one needed in another and is invited to watch those qualities play out in a living, breathing soul. Talk about an unrefined (as in sugar) reality. When we meet this person, if we ever get to, I would imagine most of us never really knew what we were seeking before the meeting, but (as I said earlier) when we had read it, we knew we had found it. An inanimate concept—a mate—becomes an animate reality. I think (judging by the hundreds of sexual conquests I witnessed among people just in my 4 years of college) it’s obvious to all that we squirm away from allowing ourselves to be engulfed by such a specific.

Life purposes are probably the most avoided, especially for young adults today (this is coming from the queen of the non-specific life plan life).  So many of us (or maybe it’s just me) flit from job to job, passion to passion, continent to continent, longing (yes, because that is in us all whether we like it or not) to bring something beautiful and weighty to the world. And I have always been quite safe in this flitting mentality. What have I REALLY committed to in my life? I love skating around causes, people groups, and ideas without ever placing my whole heart into something, because placing your heart into something costs a lot. What if, down the road, my life’s work comes to nothing? If I take the plunge and finally focus on a potential end, mightn’t I be forced to see it die before it comes to fruition? Even in my life of non-committal desire, I have felt the pain of defeated dreams. Why do you think I love WB Yeats’ poetry so much? He knew the bitter taste I speak of. In fact, it is a rare person indeed who has not passed a day lamenting a particular dream that has died. It is an even more unlikely person that, on this day, has not muttered thousands of times “never again…never again will I believe in a dream…no end is worth this pain” God knows that I have. More days than I care to admit, honestly. When we get specific in our prayers and actions, we open ourselves up to unimaginable setbacks. But, and this truth has just recently hit me: what’s the alternative? I would argue that if organic objectives with real cost behind them can (and many times do) end in a painful death, our only alternative is to choose inanimate generalities and ultimately surrender our chance to fully Live. It’s a scary thought, and I think I could be a little bit correct.

So, inevitably, all this points to Jesus. Oh man I have been hit so hard with His specific nature in the last week, and although I believe the influence of Nyquil has helped the bruising, it has hurt like hell because my life (as I am currently living it) hurts Him. Passive voice aside: I have subconsciously been skirting around how precise my life for Him has become, for fear that I am going to get locked into something I can’t get out of.  What if I really bind myself inexorably to Jesus and Jesus alone? Not to the latest cause. Not to a person or people group. Not to the freedom He gives or the desire He fulfills or the longings He satisfies. Just Him. Jesus. Specifically. Undeniably. For His sake, not mine.

 It is a costly destiny. And all of me will be required to die.

We fear specifics. I have feared them the most. Generalities cost very little. But when we fight for something or someone watered down or weak, vague or undefined, what value does it really have? We love generalities as humans, because failure is difficult to prove when we are focused on large, imprecise and indistinguishable ends and inexorable allegiance is almost impossible to prove when we commit our hearts to more than one Person. We delight in the shadows. We have to come out and own up to the Person behind our Organic Lives or forfeit them.

Operating in His vast grace, I must own up to the specificity I am called to as Christ’s follower. Who is with me?