After two decades and one year of church activities, youth groups, choir practices, and mission trips, I have been wired to believing that in order to change the world, I need to sell all my possessions and move to Africa. It doesn't matter where in Africa, because all of Africa is just one giant place and one giant pit of poverty.
I can be brash, insensitive, forceful, disrespectful, and incredibly arrogant. I can be really arrogant. For a long time, I let this interpretation of me go. People perceived it was that way, so I didn't bother correcting them. It was easier than the truth. Because while they were not wrong to think me arrogant, because I often am, they misunderstood the cause of it. It's not because I think I'm special. It's not because I think I'm better than anyone else. It's because I have felt so guilty and so ashamed of my past that I would do anything to cover it all up so that no one could see it.
This week, Christina May Gibson and I are going to be posting some reflections about ego and pride. But before that, I wanted to share a short post with you and a brutally candid one at that. You see, I'm not the best Christian in the world. Because ...
I am terrified of Heaven.
Not the experience of Heaven. Not the opportunity to be in the uninterrupted presence of God. I'm excited and expectant for that moment in which the reality I know will be tabernacled by the Reality I want to know.
But I'm not ready for eternity. That is an unknown too great for me to be comforted by.
Often, the conversation in my mind begins amenably enough. I think about Heaven in the abstract, absolute sense. A Reality somewhat removed from this one, which functions as a destination in one sense but has important relation to the present.
But then my mind keeps going and I think about how I will one day cross from this life into that one.
I will be there.
And, most terrifyingly, it will be forever.
I know some people who are comforted by this and who think others must be too, because they repeat it as part of their evangelism model. "You'll get to be with God in Heaven forever."
Like it were a closeout sale and everything must go, so if you act now ...
My anxiety over eternity is so suffocating, I often fear death not because of what death means physically but because it breaks the clock.
Suddenly, there's no expectation or thing to look forward to. Time is gone. Now it's just forever and ever. The last line of the Our Father no longer and abstract heart-cry but a tangible actuality.
I know the theological heyday some could have with this, letting me know exactly how flawed my view is, how I'm seeing eternity wrong, how I really don't believe this, and in many ways, they'd be right.
But I cannot deny that eternity freaks me out.
It's not the comfort for me as it is for some people. It's nerve-wracking and troublesome. I have sometimes lost sleep over it. I begin to think about it and a sense of weight presses down on my brain.
Perhaps it's the fear of the unknown, but I trust God. Perhaps I'm afraid I'll get bored, but I doubt it.
There's just something about the eternality of Heaven that makes it strangely terrifying.
Am I the only one who feels this way?
I always have to do things backward.
Most Christians get in trouble because all they live for is Heaven and they abandon the world to Hell because they have their one-way ticket ready to go. I happen to be coming at it from the opposite end.
The Holy Spirit has a real sense of humor.
After a lot of encouragement, I have a Facebook page now! You can like me here ...
It's that time again, another Formica Friday, a treasure trove of hodgepodge, random tidbits, and a bit of this and that. What exactly is Formica Friday? Check out the tongue-in-cheek, I got away with this?, definition from the first post.
On the eve of the armistice, when no single object that would let him be remembered was left in the house, he took the trunk of poetry to the bakery where Santa Sofia de la Piedad was making ready to light the oven.
"Light it with this," he told her, handing her the first roll of yellowish papers. "It will burn better because they're very old things."
-- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Five Six things:
- Spending time with Christina May Gibson.
- Every moment spent with, and that shall be spent with, in various combinations, @JerryHHodge, @__Antonia, @brittany_hardy, and @RachLrob.
- Breakfast with Joani Livingston.
- My amazing, ridiculous, wonderful best friends.
- Spending Sunday morning writing a letter and listening to hymns.
- Two hours on a balcony.
Blog posts you must read:
- This week, I'm pushing you toward the amazing Margaret Felice, who wrote three posts that were so wonderfully affirming. From why she runs, to talking about the necessity of liturgy and how it centers us, even if it doesn't make us feel good, and a fantastic post about prayer, which is honest and frank.
- Elizabeth Esther wrote two beautiful posts: one about leaving church again this past Sunday, the other about keeping Lent. (My favorite part about the Lent post is that there are children's books in the basket!)
- Joy shared a post about not sensing God's presence. Something Amy and I have been discussing the comments of some of my posts as of late.
- Rachel Held Evans had a brilliant commentary on wanting to be a pacifist, but knowing it's hard to be one in practicality.
- Michael Nichols has a beautiful, beautiful, WONDERFUL post about experiencing the touches of Heaven in the present.
- Prudychick shares a powerful post, worth reflection, on the difficulty of honesty even among friends.
- Two blogs that you should just become frequent visitors of, because there is no single must-read post to pull, just a lot of abundant life: Jerry Hodge and Amy Nabors.
And, as always, a post from me:
Have a post from this week you want to share? Link to it below!
When I was studying anthropology, working through stacks of books and articles on culture and development, I was fascinated by the essential structures within particular civilizations. Every group has them, a form of governance, a religious identity, a familial formation, standard practices that are inherent to a group even if they do not have the language to name them directly or even discuss them. In a basic sense, we would consider these elements "how things are done," which you can see vestiges of even now among the country club crowd and any group that retains a notion of class structure. (They are also, frightfully, the common understanding of people in church.) This thinking, this pragmatism, is rooted in the need to not question institutions but to simply follow them.
Every society participates in these foundational institutions, or else it would result in chaos and either fizzle or migrate outward. Think of the horror of Babel, when suddenly major groups no longer spoke the same language. It was their language, the essential, standard institution, that had allowed them to conceptualize the tower in the first place. Instantly they were robbed of a foundational institution.
I wonder if they were each given an individual language. The story doesn't read that way, but that their language became confused. Perhaps then they were given the mercy of being grouped. Several languages, but not individual languages. They could regroup. They could start again. Thus, we have the nations.
But these new groups have to make new foundations as well. They have to create a new way to draw the circle.
Drawing the circle is the idea of essential safety in a society. I don't know many people who call it that, though I was delighted when I came across it in Joan Didion's personally seminal work, The Year of Magical Thinking. It is the principle, and a good one at that, which states that societies create these foundational norms for the sake of the safety it brings them. Perhaps they don't articulate it as safety, but that is nonetheless what it is. Drawing the circle are those actions, small or large, which signify a space as put to rights.
It is the rejection of the chaotic Other. Within the circle, only safety can exist. Jung writes that, "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order." Drawing the circle is that enclosing, the tabernacling of the cosmos and the order in the chaos and disorder.
I have friends in California who enjoy the luxury of traveling often. But when they come home, no matter the season, they light a fire. Fire means they have come home. This is how they draw the circle.
It is a great tragedy and problem in the modern age that we have lost this notion of safety. Everything must now be busy, rushed, pushed, and hastened. In fact, it has become our functional norm to see the essential lack of safety as our safety. The point is to hurry, quicken, speed. Abandon everything at all times. Be immersed in chaos. But this does only harm to us. It can only, ultimately, harm us.
I have done my best to rebel against this. I spend unnecessary hours baking when I'm home on the weekend. I write by hand even though I learned incorrectly how to hold a pen and it hurts my hand to do so. I take long walks in silence with God. This is how I draw the circle. Sometimes it's with my Bible and the early morning sunrise. Sometimes it's with friends.
If we lose drawing the circle, if we lose finding time to be essentially unessential--that is, to do things for the sake of having done them, not for their functional purpose or efficient cause in our understanding of success--we miss the basic principle of the creation of the Creator. That is, that all beauty and grace are a kind of excess, superabundance, that serves no functional cause save for the fact that they are created.
If we don't draw the circle, we live only in the literal and miss the deep Story. We do not understand that, "For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also His offspring."
Back to poets. Freud did not know what to do with them. He put saints and poets together as the only groups of people who broke the understanding of standard psychoanalysis of persons.
I'm not too great a fan of Freud. But this he got right.
How do you draw the circle?