I’ve been really convicted this week that I’m talking too much about me. It’s not supposed to be about me. I guess the only thing people can see is me, but…. But then I recalled that the definition of a blog is my thoughts, and that’s really all I know about life, anyway. I’ve been trained to not shove things down people’s throats, and that mentioning the G-word constitutes shoving. Which is why I prefer to point the finger at myself and hope you can see what I see.
I received a comment a couple years ago, which cut me to the quick: I was told that I’d been a Christian since this person was in diapers, and yet I’d never grabbed him by the neck and shook the truth into him. What kind of Christian was I, anyway? I realized right then that I had more fear than faith, more failure than victory in my walk. What I had experienced was solid, yet I was plagued with doubt and didn’t feel I had anything important to say. I assumed everybody already knew what I found exciting, and I didn’t want to look stupid.
But I was uncomfortable on more than one level with the whole “reach out” thing. I’d heard that the cross was a picture of my relationships. As soon as the love of Christ flowed down from above, and filled me up to the crossbeam, that love would automatically flow horizontally to everyone I met. I don’t reach out to others easily; outside of the folks that I grew up on the same street, in the same classes with, I don’t have many friends. Those I am blessed with have invested more in me than they’ve received in return. Was it fear or selfishness that kept me looking more like flagpole than a cross?
Then I was faced with redefining friendship when I came to Texas. My circle of contacts narrowed enough that the distinctions between friend, foe, acquaintance and ‘someone I run into’ blurred as I realized I didn’t know enough people anymore to maintain four categories. It ain’t called the “quiet country life” for nothing. Silence, all the time. I tried to make friends, but always my self-pity and judgmentalism got in the way. I hated being alone out here, and yet couldn’t tolerate others who were different from me. I still thought I had a choice between people I liked and those I didn’t. I had to learn that, in an area where several years may pass between sightings of the next-door neighbor, everybody is a friend. This is small-town America; we all have faults, but we’re all we’ve got. I need to love them all, regardless. Same as I have been loved.
I learned what C.S. Lewis meant when he referred to God as the Hound of Heaven. There are times when He will not let you go. He was not giving me anything I asked for, no matter how many times I claimed the “Ask, seek, knock” clause. He had abandoned me in Cactus Flats, but yet He was right by my side, not allowing me out of His sight. It felt like house arrest, and I wasn’t getting out until I learned to love everyone around me unconditionally.
First, I had to learn to appreciate my surroundings. To love everything I feared and found unlovable, and trust Him to keep me safe. I found that mesquite (bushes? trees? – depends on your perspective) bloom vibrantly limey-green in the spring and the seed-pods make great rattles for little kids to play with. I started to notice every budding flower, every newborn calf, and that we only had one zipper spider this year. I now notice every person who smiles at me in the store, and treat every Wal-Mart employee with kindness.
Then I heard some lady this morning on the radio saying how much she loved this station because it kept her in her “happy spot.” Is she serious? Oh yeah, my happy spot: that’s where we go in Romper Room, and we get out the Magic Mirror to look for it. “Come on, kids, let’s go look for our Happy Spot!” The next vision in my mind is Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson gig on Saturday Night Live. This is so not what it is all about. Christianity that is a safe, “happy spot”, with fluffy stuffed animals in a boat is lame. It is mindless fru-fru that doesn’t do justice to the Creator of the universe and the One who parted the Red Sea. Christianity is not child’s play or another sweet tradition handed down from an ignorant past with Santa Claus and flying reindeer. God commanded memorials, so we could teach our children, but what a mockery we’ve made of them.
Take Easter. When we’re supposed to be remembering and teaching that God conquered evil and turned death on its head, we’re running after candy-filled eggs and betting on whether the chocolate bunny is solid or hollow.
Thanksgiving’s easier to understand. Way back when, our stupid ancestors arrived here without enough to get them through the winter and the locals were kind enough to help out. We still today thank them for helping us survive until we could wipe them out. God had no hand in providing one Indian who’d been kidnapped, sent to England, and brought back to an empty homeland, knowing the storage places of a village’s worth of foodstuffs and speaking our language?
How could we forget these things? This was not coincidence. Our nation’s forefathers were predominantly Christian; strong, intelligent men who sought to know truth, and found deadly spiders, political defeat, and devastating personal loss. Christians lose more than anybody else, I’m convinced. But they also find more life, as well. I came across another idea attributed to C.S. Lewis: it is bad enough to have to endure pain, but as a believer you must say that it was not an accident and that it was sent by a God who declares himself to be good! Only the believer sees that he is part of something larger than himself and that it is good.
This has nothing to do with staying in a “happy spot” and maintaining a sugary exterior in the face of challenges.
Until I could see that I was nothing special, just as useless as the land around me, I really had no use for God. Only then could I see that God could make all things new.
I never intended this blog to become a pulpit. I said it would be a place where God could speak through me, but I didn’t expect to become so forthright – this kind of talk scares me silly. I never want to be the “Prayze Geezus!” person with the fish sticker on his forehead. I want the character of George Key, a quiet, friendly man I knew during my teen years. He would’ve been about 80. He spent a few minutes with me in the hospital when I had foot surgery. He prayed with me, and answered my questions as though each one were the most important ones he’d ever heard. He encouraged me to keep seeking, because there was more there than I could fathom – ever. He had such clarity of thought. I still have the iron cross made from nails he gave me.
It would definitely take divine intervention to accomplish that.