Listening to a sermon today at lunch reaffirmed something for me. It's funny, sometimes you think things, even if you partially believe it's a little off kilter, but somehow you hold to it and it's kind of nice when someone who is really smart steps up and says you were okay to think that all along. It's like being on the Crazy Train only to find you aren't the only one after all. At least, if we're all on the train together I haven't been relegated to some obscure baggage car.
I think we're way, way past post-modernism, maybe we're in Neo Post-Moderism, but this particular teacher was talking about Post Modernity for what it's worth, and he said:
"It used to be you told the truth and then followed up with stories that illustrate. But now, I think, you have to tell the stories and follow it up with truth."
And that's important, to me anyway, because the answers make sense when the questions make sense. And a lot of questions don't make sense to me, let alone all the answers spoon-fed me. For everything it seems I can do, and am perhaps good at, I'm always confounded by the simple reality that I always seem to frustrate those to whom I do not wish to frustrate. And it is those to whom I offer no inclusion into my small puddle of emotional attachment that they speak of attributes like kindness, generosity, wisdom, confidence; things preposterous to echo with my name.
Although I've come to conclude that when someone walks up to me and wonders at my confidence, it's actually an insult of sorts. I mean, no one goes up to George Clooney and is astounded at his confidence, but we're astounded when Napoleon Dynamite is confident because secretly we've surmised that he should not be confident - just look at him after all! He has nothing to be confident about!
So, I like stories. I like simple ones. My friend, Pegs, gave me a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends one year and it was a great read. Jack Lewis gave me a little bit more complex story when he gave me the roaring Lion who understood the Deep Magic when the White Witch could not. Hollywood (Sophia Coppola, Bill Murray, and Focus Features to name a few) have given me some interesting bits to chew on, much like McCarthy and Gibson in books, or Square Enix and Bioware in video games, or David Wilcox and Rockwell Church in song - whether they meant it in any particular way or not, or whether I interpreted it in any particular way or not - those are wholly other tales to be told.
All these stories, all these pieces, to this fantastically large puzzle that I can't ever seem to make heads or tails over. Much like God, every time I think I've got something figured out about Him I realize I've gotten six other things un-figured out.
But today, hearing that line, it was like three more puzzle pieces fit together. This same guy once gave me advice - he told me that whatever is going on, if I don't know what to do, then I just need to show up. And I don't ever know what to do. But this helps illuminate a few things.
In Mark 5, Jesus heals a man with a Demon. Perhaps you've heard the story - it's where the Demon leaves and enters the herd of pigs, and the pigs all run and jump into the sea and drown themselves. But here is the context:
2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”
Then the part you know, Jesus gave permission for the unclean spirits to leave the man and enter the pigs, and Yahshua bar Yosef gained that reputation as the pig killer.
14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened.15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
The guy wanted to go with Jesus, he asked if he could go, and Jesus tells him there is somewhere else for him to go. Go to your home. Go to your friends. Go to the people that know you, to the people that you know. Show up - there.
I have to make something clear as well - when people ask me if I can play the guitar, up until recently I always said "no." I mean, Jimi Hendrix can play the guitar, Phil Keaggy can play the guitar. I am like a toddler smashing a toy when I play the guitar. I'd always held that those to whom mastery comes, they are the ones that can be called in title or attribute. For people like me, of which mastery is not within, well, we are just side notes and witnesses to that particular story and to say we are something when we are obviously not, then we are but diminishing the word in the human language. But what if being the side note, what if being a mere witness - what if that is the story???
And so I'll sit in Church, I'll read the theology books, I'll sing the hymns, and sometimes - okay, a lot of times - it's all words dripping off a soggy page. Like some light has turned off and there's no breaker box to flip a switch, there's no store to go to where I can choose to buy a super efficient compact fluorescent lamp or an incandescent electricity-devouring bulb. And I constantly hear the "do this" or "don't do that" and I hear all the good intentions and the ill-conceived ones. And things don't make sense. Again. And again. And again. It's humorously cyclical, really.
But I think I'm beginning to see that it's because I keep trying to get on the boat with Jesus. And I get confused when he doesn't let me. I mean, I've lived my life at the tombs, being bound and chained by one besetting thing or another, only to break free for a moment and then be bound again. Then the Pig Killer shows up, and I'm free, but I can't go where the freedom was borne. I can't get on the boat. And it feels like prison chains all over again.
But then I see - the boat is not Jesus. The boat is not the story. The tombs - that's not the story either. Nor the herd of pigs.
The story for me - is to go and "show up." Even with the crazy reputation. Even with the Pig Killer telling me what to do. Even if it's not what I've been used to, or what I thought I should do, or what I could do. There really is something to showing up.
So I guess I'll still show up with my t-shirts (that say something ridiculous like: "Proud to be Awesome" or "I [heart] Hot Moms") and shorts and sandals... I don't make enough money to be anybody, or a somebody, in that sense. I make enough to pay my bills, and I'm glad I can. And I own suits and ties, but they aren't me. I figure I should show up, not some cardboard cut-out of an idea of me.
I still wait for the day when I'll be excommunicated. Someone will find out some sin that I've done and they'll be surprised. I mean, I won't be surprised - I know me. Perhaps that I've shacked up with some hot hooker, who is relatively cheap as I don't make much money remember, or that I robbed a bank, or better yet, robbed some widows or orphans through fraudulent means. Or maybe, more realistically, they'll find out that I shoot the bird at frumpy grandmas that cut me off in traffic, or that I cuss - A LOT - that I like cussing, and that I'm not giving it up any time soon.(If you love me, you'll send me a picture of you shooting the bird. Those pictures make me smile.)
But even if/when that day comes, I won't be mad at the church, or rather, the people in it. Why would I be mad at them?
The Pig Killer told me to come here. To show up with the people that are here. Maybe I'll be cast into a different circle, but my circle doesn't really have any enforceable boundary so we can still hang out. Or at least, like toddlers, play beside each other. Even if I don't like you, or think you smell. At some point I'll not like me or realize that I smell.
So until Jesus comes back with the boat, I'll be here - the guy whom the Pig Killer "fixed" - messing around in the dirt. Just like you. Right next to you.