30 July 2006

anyone up for a sea voyage?

As a preface: these words are nearly completely prompted by a chapter in Don Miller's Searching For God Knows What (you guys are really going to get tired of hearing about him, so go read his stuff, and get a glimpse of what i'm so crazy about) and the presentation of Jesus in the Bible that I've read (that's another thing everyone should go read, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Okay, I'm done providing suggested reading.). So just know that most of these thoughts aren't even mine, but I'm trying to work them out and make them my own. Wish me luck with that. Anyhoo.

I've found myself back in church lately, due to the wonderful influence of a friend very dear to me. It's strange, being back in a community of Christ-followers, because for so long, I've not only been out of that community, but have often been cynical and pessimistic of it. Being caught up with things (as another friend put it, "Jesus is still Lord and the Bible is still the Word of God; consider yourself caught up."), or at least working to understand the spirit of Christ's church, has got me thinking about a lot of things, especially in regards to relationship, both those that people have with each other and those that people have with Christ. As I've tried to make clear in earlier ramblings, I believe that God is fundamentally relational, and that he created people to be relational as well, and that the most beautiful things about Christian spirituality are evident only in relationship. The concept of 'relationship' is an alive and vibrant thing, not entirely tangible, but most people understand what the concept means. Boyfriends are 'in relationship' with their girlfriends. Parents are 'in relationship' with their children. Students are 'in relationship' with their students,' pastors with their congregation, friends with their confidantes, and on and on and on--the limitations of relationship is boundless. The lines overlap and blur and blend into a beautiful cacophony of existence that isn't fully understood but no less cherished.

So what do you do when a relationship feels stress?

I think back to those moments in middle school, okay, not even as far back as middle school. I think back to yesterday, today, an hour ago, and I think about how frequently, and how unintentionally, I looked at someone and drew a comparison. She is prettier than me; he has a nicer car than I do; I look better with that bag than she does; he is smarter than I; she is better at talking to people than I am, she is a more generous person than me; I feel threatened by her; I feel more powerful than him... Most times i don't even notice that I'm drawing comparisons between myself and other people, but I almost always am. If you think about it, all of our society is constantly drawing comparisons. We're always trying to evaluate who is worth more. Who's got the better batting average? Who's got the best GPA? Who's a better candidate for election? Who's more fun to work with? Our question always seems to be "Who is more valuable to me in this moment?"

I cannot come up with a better metaphor than he did, so I'll just use Don Miller's. He said that people are always trying to decide who is worth more, as if we're sitting in a lifeboat together, awaiting rescue, and trying to decide who gets thrown overboard if things get dangerous. In the middle school lifeboat, the people who have the newest clothes and don't have to ride the bus to school are worth more in the lifeboat than the people who have funny teeth or wear shirts from Wal-Mart. In high school, the cheerleaders and jocks are the ones who'll get saved by the rescue team while the dweebs reading anime together are the ones who'll get thrown to the sharks if the boat starts to sink. In college, the sorority girls survive, while the person who belongs to no club and has a mediocre GPA is ignored and disregarded. The "real world" has its own standards of value as well. Nicer cars, bigger houses, vacation homes, high-yielding profit margins--these all earn you seats of honor in the lifeboat. Those struggling on welfare, homeless dudes, drug addicts and criminals are those who are kicked to the edges and are the ones whose fall overboard goes unnoticed or ignored. So who decided the constructs of this unspoken guidebook to lifeboat survival? It certainly wasn't God. I don't know how it started, but I know how it perpetuates: it's our fault. We always try to associate ourself with the 'good guys' in the lifeboat, we want nothing to do with the losers. If we associate ourself with the good guys, we've got a better chance of gaining spots above everyone else, and we're that much closer to surviving. Except God doesn't have a lifeboat.

What's so cool to me about Christianity is that Jesus was never preferential. Now, I know that Walt hasn't been rummaging around in my brain lately, because that would just be creepy, but in both the Sundays he has offered God's word to us, he has spoken a phrase or two that just really captures everything I've been thinking about lately. Last week, he said that Jesus never passed by an opportunity to teach truth to people. Today, he said that even when Jesus overheard people muttering about him behind his back, he was ready to go and used their arrogance as another opportunity to teach truth. This says a few things to me. In addition to Jesus being a really patient guy, it means also that Jesus isn't in our lifeboat. Let me switch it up a bit. If someone had been talking about me, and I heard it, I would do something spiteful or hateful to them. I don't know many people that wouldn't think less of someone else who'd said something hurtful about them, and I know ever fewer people who would be willing to offer truth to them. In our lifeboat, when people are cruel, it means their value to us goes down, and in our minds, they're placed behind nicer people in the "save me, first, line." But Jesus doesn't work that way. When people criticized him, his response was "Okay, fine, you're not too smart when it comes to this God stuff, but okay, here's some truth about God anyway. You'll want to listen because I'm telling you how to spend eternity with me, because I love you and I think you're valuable to me." Jesus said this to everyone: the homeless guys, the prostitutes, the rich bums and Pharisees, everyday joes guys that smelled like fish and dudes who's skin was rotting off. Jesus spoke his truth to everyone. How cool is that? I'm absolutely astounded by that because it means that Jesus' love is impartial. It means that he loves me as much as he loves the chick with a smaller waistline, as much as he loves the alcoholic mother, as much as you. Jesus doesn't even see the same stuff we see, he doesn't care about our lifeboat, he doesn't even understand the concept.

God not having a lifeboat is so amazingly comforting and simulaneously absolutely terrifying. It's awesome because it means he loves me no matter how anyone else has appraised me, and it's crumbling because it means he wants me to give up my lifeboat. I mean, as skewed as it is, my lifeboat is a pretty safe place right now. I may not be in the center of it, holding the binoculars, but I'm certainly not clinging to the edge hoping not to get pushed out. I'm supposed to give up my spot just because the Creator of the entire universe says my theory is null and void? Um, yeah. Giving up my lifeboat means I won't be worth anything in anyone else's. It also means I'm thinking like God, and thinking like God is both scary and impossible. But trying to think like God means that I'll maybe get to see the world illuminated by Christ. I imagine it would be a bit like Eden in that respect, and I can't think of anything more beautiful than trying to understand the world as God meant it to be.

a hippy's thoughts on the occurance of nightfall

I actually wrote this several weeks ago, and felt like posting it after rereading it. Please ignore my blatant disregard of apostrophes. I'm too lazy to add them back in.

Amid all the things we like to call our lives, sometimes you just need to take off your shoes, lay down in the grass, and forget about all of it. Its good, you know, to just lie in the grass and forget there are a thousand other things you could be doing. Because when you're there on the ground, the rush of its welcome floods back into your memory for the first time since you last collapsed on the earth in exhausted exuberance when you were 12. We like to tell ourselves that there are always things we can be doing to improve ourselves, to be better at our jobs, our families, to be better versions of ourselves. There are self-help books and meditation journals and Bible studies and diet plans, all of which tell us that were not good enough just as ourselves. Most of us have probably accepted that as true, I know that I am always reading more books and trying to boost my GPA, all so I can go to grad school and get a degree and prove to somebody that I am good enough. Were all doing things to prove to someone that we are good enough. But how bad can you feel about yourself and the world when you lie in the grass looking at a half-paled sky and feeling how small you are? When you're on your back before the world, letting the mosquitoes bite you on every exposed bit of skin warmed by sun and moistened by humidity and sweat, your bills are smaller and your worries smaller and everything that preoccupies your mind is smaller--you as yourself is suddenly very small too, but your awareness of the world and its beauty increases tenfold.

I sound like a hippy, I realize, a feel good yuppie-type who thinks watching birds fly under clouds will make her life run more smoothly and her problems dissolve. No, not permanently, anyway. When I walk inside with soil-stained feet I will have to face the evidence of my fleeting life with a tangible brutality. But who can deny, after being silent before the peace a small patch of earth can offer, that there is indeed beauty left in this world? Just being a part of creation--whoever you believe created it--God, evolution, aliens, sea monkeys or the accidental explosion of space dust--is something spiritual. Who can take a pure communion with the ground you walk on and not see it as something holy, intentional, grand? I pushed a beetle from my arm with a stick and thought about the reasons of the universe--why is it here, whom does it glorify, how am I a part of this creation? I heard the crickets buzz unseen in grass around me and I wondered not how they fit in the ecosystem, but why there is even an environment to begin with. We are so small as humans, small even in comparison with the world, smaller still in light of the galaxy and universe, that it seems really inexplicable that we should have a place in the universe at all. What do we offer it, really? Our advancements of technology and thought are replaced every hundred years or so, and sometimes I feel like our advancements in theory and formula are rather violently destroying anything we feel of love and passion, truth and question. And does the universe need our emotion, our thoughts? I hardly think it does, and yet there is something beautiful in them still, in our place here, lying on the grass in the dark, looking up at a half-paled sky and just wondering why.

29 July 2006

Number 10, Half, On Wheat, Chips and a Drink, Please.

It's exciting for me to think about passion. Not passion in the Marvin Gaye "Let's Get It On" use of the word, but free, unbridled, contagious, take off your clothes and dance in the street excitement. Now that I think about it, that kind of passion can often lead to the Marvin Gaye passion, especially if one were to take off his clothes and dance in exuberance. Anyway. It's nothing new to know that passion is contagious. That's why political parties and college football are such huge moneymakers; you get a few people on stage acting really excited about something, maybe they'll even have a reason or ideal to be excited about, and all it takes is a few other people to catch on to that excitement, to share that love for that one reason or ideal, and it spreads. It's contagious. Everyone who sees the passion in someone else wants to know where it's going and what it would mean for them to be a part of it. If it's a cool kind of excitement, they want in on it too. When I'm watching someone be really excited about something, genuinely excited, I find myself getting a little bit emotional too. I start feeling enthusiastic, my cheeks get feverish and I get those jumpy shakes in my gut that makes me want to get in the action. Rarely do I consider the purpose of my passion. Let me say that again, for my own sake: Rarely do I consider the purpose of my passion.

When I am excited about something, and it's that just starting out, nervous anticipation excitement, I'm not thinking how this thing I'm excited about is going to impact humanity in the good ways. Nor am I thinking about the implications of my actions, or the long-term results it will bring. I can quite honestly say that when I'm really pumped about something, it doesn't bother me in the least whether or not this excitement is holy or scandalous or even just a whimsical waste of time. I don't care; I'm excited. But isn't that how we all are? We're thrilled because of first apartments, first kisses, last days at bad jobs, last days of school; we yell and scream when little guys on the TV throw balls into hoops, we set aside an hour every Sunday night for the latest installment of the sexiest TV show. We're passionate about our favorite bands, or favorite sports team, motivational speakers and even diets. People are passionate about their gym, their jobs, their hobbies, and their lapsa apsas. These are all good things. These things all help our lives go on in easier, happier ways and without them a lot of us would be totally lost. But do I ever stop and think about why I'm passionate about something?

Time for another poorly drawn parallel: I eat at a little sandwich shop around the corner from where I work called Roly Poly at least once a week, usually 2 or 3 times. I love this restaurant. I really do. If the owner ever decides to close up shop, I would be devastated and would probably send him a rude letter. Every time someone ponders out loud where they should eat their lunch, I always suggest Roly Poly. (And by suggest I mean politely demand.) I know their menu, I know their sides, I know the names of the staff and they know mine. They know my order. They know to take off the mushrooms and spicy Thai sauce even if I forget to ask them to do it. So why am I so passionate about Roly Poly? Why do I actually make room in my budget for them alone? I can list the reasons, I can say that their food is healthy, and always fresh. I can say that I get a huge meal for $6 even. The staff is awesome, and some of the guys are even kind of cute (hot delivery guys, anyone?). It's close to my job. They have fresh cookies. And on. And why? It's really just a sandwich shop with a cute name. It's not like there isn't a plethora of other lunch options around me. Other people have fresh food and cheap food and cute delivery guys. And still I've chosen Roly Poly, however unintentionally, to be MY place, MY passion in the realm of quick lunches.

That's just my example. Think of all the other mundane, actually, think about anything that people make their passion, mundane or not. I kind of forgot where I was going with this (and in doing so, succeeded in making myself hungry), but since there needs to be some kind of point somewhere, I guess I just want to start really evaluating what I'm getting excited about, and more importantly, why I'm getting excited. I think one of the easiest ways to distract people from the "why" of a thing is to get them really passionate about it. Emotions feel better than logic any day, but it's also the emotions that so easily cloud us from understanding what we're really saying. I'll confess that it is much easier to get me pumped up about going to Roly Poly to get my usual than it is to get me out of bed in the morning to go to church. Or to work a soup kitchen. Or to support honest charities. Or to talk to the people I usually wouldn't talk to. Or to be a good friend. Or to listen. Or to... you see my point? It's easier to be passionate about the silly things that don't really matter than it is to be passionate about the things that will rock this hurting world in much bigger ways. For me, at least.

I've got a friend who is absolutely nuts about his church. Without too many of the details, he came from a church that he couldn't fully get passionate about. So he decided to find one where he felt more at home, and when he did, he couldn't stop talking about it. He loves that church like part of himself, and he tells people about it. He invites people to it. He gets involved with it as if the church were his partner in a strange, mysterious, plurality of a relationship. And it's contagious. When people talk with him, and he starts smiling at the thoughts of his church, other people want to experience what he has experienced. They want to go to his church. He's not trying to sell his church to anyone, or earn cool points with the visitors committee; he's excited and wants others to have that excitement too. That's how passion works with anything, I think--that's why people talk about anything they're passionate about, because deep down, intrinsically, we want other people to share in the excitement with us and get the same feelings we get from whatever it is we're excited about. Now, this doesn't explain why women go to the bathroom in groups, but it does make clear to me that whenever I'm gushing about something, I should really stop and consider the relevance of what I'm gushing about. Because people are listening, and chances are, the things I'm most willing to talk about are the things that mean the most to me. I can talk about a sandwich shop easier than I can talk about getting people together to work a soup kitchen. When I step back and look at it, that says I love sandwiches more than I love people, and that's not something I want to live with. I need to consider the purpose of my passion.

26 July 2006

The Difference Between "Ser" and "Estar"

I was thinking the other day about all the emotions people have, and the things we feel not quite in our brains, but in all the tender, hidden places of our body. I was thinking that of all the things humans have explained about themselves, emotions seem to be some of the most mysterious parts of ourselves of all. We know that there are certain chemicals flowing around our brains and bloodstreams that release certain hormones or trigger certain chemical responses in parts of our brains, but no one has been able to explain exactly why they work, or what they’re doing there, or even, completely, how they help in the furtherance of the human species.

I don’t know any Greek or Hebrew words or anything, but when the Bible says that “God is love,” I don’t think that means he resembles loves, or does a lot of loving, or even has a lot of qualities that are like love, I really think it means that God is the manifestation of love itself. I don’t know about anyone else, but that kind of makes me want to hide under a pillow for a few days while I think about it. First off, I don’t even know what love is. I know what the dictionary says, I can even look up its etymological history and see how the word has evolved, but when it comes down to it, a definition is just words, and love is, well, it’s love. Ask a husband what love is, ask a mother about her child, ask the 17 year old with the crush on the basketball center, go out and ask anyone who has had any interaction with another human being at all, and you’ll get what love is to that person. But to actually be love? I can’t wrap my mind around it.

And I think there’s a reason I can’t understand love. To understand love, I’d have to first understand a whole lot about the human experience that I just don’t, and two, I’d have to understand God, and no one can do that. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he was talking to the disciples and he said that he had so much more he wanted to tell them, but that they couldn’t bear it (John 16:12). Later he said that there will come a time when he doesn’t have to speak to us in parables anymore, but will be able to use plain language (16:25). I’ve always understood this to mean that Jesus, as God, understood so much more about God than we have ever been able to. I think, and this is just me hiding under a pillow and thinking about things, that Jesus has an entirely different language to use with God, because they are, quite literally, as unified as any two beings can be. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (John 1:1). Okay, so Jesus = God, and if God = love, then therefore, Jesus = love, too. That’s a simplification, but I don’t know how else to look at it.

When I think about people in love, I understand implicitly that they will have a certain language about them. I understand that there will be a certain way they hold hands, walk together, make conversation or kiss goodbye that is entirely theirs. I can see it, but never completely understand what it is they are saying to each other when no words are being said. The closest of lovers understand each other because they have spent time with each other, learning each other, working to understand what it is about the other person that makes them unique and lovely. This language is learned, because no one is born knowing how to communicate that clearly with another person. But I think Adam and Eve were created to have that communication with God, and I think before they broke God’s rules, the communication between God and Adam and Eve was the clearest, most beautiful God-speak ever. Adam and Even enjoyed totally unbroken, uninhibited relationship with God, and God was able to completely reveal himself to them.

So if, at one point in time, humans enjoyed that complete, open relationship with God, it makes sense that we would have understood God’s love-language; we would have known what true love was. It also makes sense, then, to assume that there is some memory of that language left inside us, to make us desire that communication again. I could be wrong, but I think we as broken people are always trying to find something to mimic that relationship with God. I think we are always trying to fall in love, create beauty, or communicate with someone in a way that is holy, in a way that is God’s. I think having understood, a long time ago, perfect communion is what drives us to experience communion today. I think that is why we fall in love, why we understand feelings like guilt and justice, why we are happy at joy and excited at success, why we are lonely for someone, why enjoy the company of people who love us. I think we are all searching for the God that is love, wanting his company again. So how do we find that? How do we love God in that way again? How does a broken person find his way back to the God that echoes inside of his emotion?

25 July 2006

Thoughts On Eleven

I went to lunch with my mom today, and as I was devouring my chicken fingers in a most unladylike manner, I noticed I had an audience. She was an 11 year old girl, with sun-freckled cheeks and brand new school sneakers on her feet. She was a cute kid, but despite the ribbon she tied in her ponytail, probably not the kind that would ever make it on to the cheerleading squad or the kind that would have a boy say yes when her best friend asked him out for her. When you're 11, these things are important to you. She sat with her mother in their booth, and stared at me for what was almost the entirety of both my meal and hers. Now, having once been an 11 year old girl, I can imagine that she was thinking very wonderful or either very horrible things about me. Girls of that age almost always think in extremes, and the shift from one to the next is dizzying to even the most well-adapted thought-acrobat. As she wasn't whispering to her mother while shifting her eyes back and forth from me, I'll assume that she wasn't horrified at my outfit.

I remember being 11. I remember being in Claire's, picking out that one blessed pair of earrings my mother was graciously allowing me to buy for picture day, and watching the older girls walk past me and into the stores with the half-nude mannequins and the employees with half-smiles and wondering at all the marvelous things that they must do. I remember thinking that their lives were magically more exciting than mine--that they spent their days shopping for new outfits and their evenings with their boyfriends in all the expensive restaurants. I imagined that they were always approached by the cutest, most popular boys, and that everyone wanted them to be their friend, and that they were always the nicest girls, even though they were beautiful and popular and probably rich. I never in my wildest imagination would have thought that these girls were worrying about their Spanish test, shopping off a failed job interview, getting out of their abusive home, paying their maxed out credit card bill, just getting off a terrible shift at work, or late with their rent payment. I wanted so desperately to talk to these older girls, to have them answer my questions about boys and clothes and periods and kissing, but I never would have wanted the real answers. I never would have wanted to hear that life continues to be difficult ten years after 11.

If this little girl, twirling her ketchup cup under the spout as I had done thirty seconds earlier, had spoken to me, and we'd talked about her life ten years later, she would be quite disappointed with time. Never would she imagine that 21 is not really that old, or that I am still as insecure and doubting as she is. She would never guess that my age has often failed to answer my questions, but has instead given me better questions. If she were to ask, I could not bring myself to tell her that although I'm grown up enough not to need my best friend to ask out a boy for me, the rejection that ensues is still just as horrifying and painful. I could never tell her that those fights she has with her mother about her outfit and curfew will only grow into more hurtful arguments about bigger issues. I couldn't tell her that her best friend won't be her best friend in even 6 months, or that she will probably never stop doubting her reflection in the mirror or whether or not people like her.

But because I couldn't have offered her happy answers, I would have liked to tell her that she is a beautiful girl, and that I liked her shirt, and I bet her boyfriend gave her that necklace. She would have appreciated that, because when you're an 11 year old girl, all you really want is for someone to notice you, think that you are pretty, and want to be your friend. And I think that in a way, time disappoints us all.

24 July 2006

So what is this Jesus stuff, anyway?

I've been thinking a lot lately about Christianity. I have a lot of confusion about Christianity--not so much what it is, but more with how it has been jaded. And I think Christianity (and therefore Christ?) has become incredibly distorted, especially in modern American culture. (As an aside, Don Miller's books, especially Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What, but also Through Painted Deserts are the catalyst for much of my thought on this subject, and if anyone is having the same thoughts, I seriously recommend those books. Check out www.donaldmillerwords.com for excerpts.) I'm 21, I've spent practically my whole life inside a church, in Bible studies and Sunday School rooms, youth groups and Christian retreats, and yet only recently have I had the realization that Christianity is so fundamentally relational that it is impossible to understand the things Jesus taught if you don't have a friendship with him. I don't know what that means for anyone else, but it scares the mess out of me. Friends with Jesus? How do you get to be friends with Jesus?

I think one of the first things I was taught in Sunday School was how to witness to people. I remember that in my 5th grade class, our teachers, a young married couple that owned a big house in the nice part of town and had a 3 year old daughter and a schnauzer, spent about a month or so walking us through all the key verses that would make people Christians. We even had to present an oral delivery of the stuff, showing off how well we'd memorized things, and even then, the whole idea of witnessing made me scared. Over the next 7 or 8 years, the 5th grade project got prettied up a bit, but essentially, all the teachers in the department were teaching us as middle and high schoolers how to memorize a few key statements and present them in a nice package and then pray and those people would be Christians because we'd done so well and all. I'm not saying that my Sunday School teachers didn't have wonderful intentions, I'm sure they were just reiterating the message their corporately published guidebooks urged them to, but does it seem strange to anyone else that Christians of any age should be encouraged to offer people a regiment of salvation. It frightens me a bit that the first thing I remember in my experience of Christianity was not hearing about how much Jesus loves people, but a flowchart pointing to heaven. I don't have the exact quote, but I'm referencing Don Miller when I say that it seems to me, that if the premises of Christianity were as simple as marking 10 verses in the New Testament and being able to recite them, Jesus would have mentioned something about that somewhere.

I don't think you can get to heaven in 3 steps, or 5, or even 17. I don't think heaven is even the true goal. Am I pushing things too far to say that I don't even think Christianity can be explained?

I'm not claiming to understand Jesus, in fact, I understand so little I feel hypocritical by writing these kinds of things, but from what I have read about Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (did we just throw those in reverse alphabetical order?)) it looks as though that everything Christ taught, and he taught a lot, originates in relationship with him. Things most associated with Christianity, like having upright morals and tithing and service to other people and being compassionate towards humanity, all came later, after he'd said how much he wanted to be loved by us. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think that all those things are largely impossible without first loving Christ. I think people do those things (purely, without selfish motivation) because they do love Christ, and want to show their love for him. I don't think you can have a true sense of morality without first understanding that pure actions glorify Christ; I don't think you can give an honest tithe without understanding how much power God has to use any kind of offering,; I don't think you can offer your gifts to anyone until you know that it was God who gave you the ability to serve to begin with and that service to humility glorifies the Saviour; and I don't think that people have any power to love other people at all unless we have some sort of deep, ingrained memory of what it was like to love God before things went bad in the Garden of Eden.

I think all of the good things about Christianity--morality, offering, service, love--stem from a Christian's desire to glorify the God that made them. This is an awkward and poorly drawn parallel, but This is an awkward and poorly drawn parallel, but think about the first time you kiss someone. You're excited and nervous about it, and you can't wait for it, because you are so ready and willing to express your affection for him in a deeper way. So when he finally does kiss you, you are excited and happy because you know that he understood, through physical action, that you think of him in that way, and that the way you care for him is different than the way you care for you neighbor, an acquaintance, or your best friend. Just like a lot of people kiss for the wrong reasons, people can do things for reasons not entirely justifiable to Jesus Christ. People have morals because they think they will save them, or give them glory in church. People give service and offerings and charity donations because they want to see their names on sponsor sheets, or because they feel guilty about not going to church enough. People pretend to love other people because they might know someone who is going to be doing some hiring soon, or because the person is cooler than someone else or drives a nicer car or has a Submariner or a Lexus key fob. But just becuase people screw up doesn't mean that those things aren't good things, and it doesn't mean that Jesus is any less legitimate.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I don't think any good thing is fully realized until you have a relationship with Christ. Until you are a Christian. I hesitate to use the word "Christian" because for so long, I have been taught that people are Christians if they have followed the steps to ask Jesus into their hearts and forgive them of their sins and let them into heaven if they promise to stop swearing or drinking or driving too fast. I know that there are a lot of tracts and Bible studies and Sunday School teachers out there swearing up and down that getting to heaven is as easy as 1-2-3 (literally), but I don't agree.

Think about your home. In it, you've got photos of your family, memories of them, stories that you tell to your guests. You don't have a list of things taped to the fridge that will help your neighbors love your brother. When your neighbor asks, you simply talk about him. You share what he's doing in school, how you think his girlfriend is going to dump him, you talk about that time you threw sticks at each other and he ran over you with his bike; you talk about how he's a good 8 inches taller than you, but he still flinches when you pretend to take a swing at him. And after hearing all these stories, and seeing how much you love your brother, your neighbor might want to meet him, and come to love him too. The next time your neighbor sees you in the market picking over the bumpy tomatoes, she might ask you how your brother is doing, and then mention how she might want to meet him if he's ever in town for the weekend. And you're glad to agree, because you love your brother, and want everyone else to love him too. I hardly think it's much different with Christ.

God didn't create people to be simpletons. He created us to love each other, to love him, and essentially, humans are relational and thrive when in relationship. People glow when they're in love, giggle when with their best friend, light up when their child dances into a room. The Bible says we are made in God's image, but I don't think that stops with having 2 legs and toes and a bit of nose hair. I think that means that the essences of our personalities, our being, echoes God's personality, and the relationship we were meant to have with him before the Fall. If God didn't give us the capability to describe how we fell in love with our husbands in 3 easy steps, I doubt very seriously that understanding Christ would be any different. In fact, I think the potential to fall in love with God would be the most difficult, exhausting, mysterious and beautiful thing we as humans can do.

22 July 2006

Preliminary Disclaimer

In starting this whole blog thing, I don't really know what I'’m trying to accomplish. I'’d like to think that something I say here would be considered insightful or even incredibly profound, but in all actuality, I doubt very much that it will become anything more than a meager collection of my thoughts and asides about the very small portion of creation that is my existence. I'’m at a time in my life that is dynamic--—things are changing rapidly around me, and I suppose that I am changing, too, but I can'’t point to any single thing that has bloomed within me, or that has even become aware of a greater purpose to blooming in the first place.

I suppose, by way of bullet-point, I could describe myself, my interests, goals, beliefs, likes and dislikes, and if they were clear in my mind I would probably try. As they are not (and as very few are interested that I like peanut butter ice cream and canĂ‚’t stand the sound of the word "yolk") I'll forgo all that and say instead that I am most beautiful under a night sky, most kind in my silence, most creative at 3 a.m., and most grumpy any time before noon.

I'm usually in college (taking a summer off currently) and I'm always in a book. I'm intrigued by other people's questions, and I find other questions usually answer my own quite accidentally. I love to see the world in perspectives, and I kind of make my own commentary as I go along. In all my observation, I can'’t decide if I am making my world smaller or larger with all that I do. I don'’t know if it has lost its intrigue or if I am making it more mysterious, but I regard the universe, at times, with the same sort of curiosity a woman studies her lover--—she pursues him and learns him, and all the while she knows more of him, the more perplexing he becomes. Understanding of him is just beyond her clasp, and she is more beautiful in her search for him.

I don't know what purpose I'm striving for in this--I don't have a goal to journal, changes to catalog, or difficulties to overcome. I suppose that in a way, this space is just another way for me to gain perspective on my world, as small as it is, and as Don Miller quotes Tom Arnold in Searching for God Knows What, "the reason [I write] is because I wanted something out there so people would tell me they liked me. It's the reason behind almost everything I do" (116).
So ignoring the fact that I halfway did an MLA in-text citation just now, that's about as honest my reasons for writing can be. I'll probably chronicle a lot in here, but basically, the largest part of all of it will be hoping that it makes sense to someone, perhaps even myself, and that somebody will like it.