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Archive for February, 2010

Fool for Love

My friend Ann is an amazing writer. She has this knack for capturing moments, for drawing out the truth that shines through hairline cracks in the mundane. While reading her blog tonight, in a post called Germophilia, I came across this quote:

Her lack of thoroughness in paranoia is disappointing. Why settle for neurosis? If one really wants to be positive of one’s hygiene, commit to psychosis.

And it stopped me in my tracks. How many of us are merely neurotic? How many of us place our boundaries too near and our limits to low? And so we hold ourselves in restraint, never allowing ourselves to peer over the edge of the cliff, much less to take a flying leap of faith.

I remember a long time ago hearing a performer assert how un-cool she was. Cool people never get excited over things. They’re ridiculously calm, meet every situation with unnerving aplomb. Their flippant nonchalance drives some to envy. But not her. This woman stated that she hopes no one ever calls her cool as long as she lives. She wants to be excited about life, to get all crazy about little details. To run screaming for the edge and then take the plunge. To do things that leave her cool counterparts so embarrassed for her because, secretly, they wish they had the guts to do it too.

And so it is with me. I’m not cool. I talk too loud, too often and too long. I get excited about ladybugs, chickweed and clouds, about bits of scrap metal that I find and add to my collection. I throw temper tantrums. I’m proud of my prematurely gray hair. I fart in public. Yeah, definitely not cool.

Whenever I try to be cool, whenever I settle for mere neurosis, I sense that I’m disappointing someone somewhere. I’m conforming to the social norms that tell me to be just crazy enough, just “different” enough to keep the favor of my peers. If I can just be an individual like everybody else…oh wait, guess I’m not so out there after all. But to “commit to psychosis” would be taking it a step too far, right? Not when leaping over the edge means leaping into the complete care of God. I feel now more than ever that in order to give over entirely to God, one has to lose her cool entirely. I go through weeks when I lose it multiple times every day. And I know now that being called to a life in service to Christ is anything but boring.

I feel extremely blessed as well as totally frustrated to have discovered my calling at such a young age. Blessed because I get to be reinvented in my 30s, and if it’s this amazing now I can’t wait for the transformations that come in my 40s, 50s and 60s. Blessed because I get to live in a relationship with God that gives me freedom to explore all the darkest corners of my world without fear. Frustrated because, too often I want to be cool instead. Frustrated that I’m not out doing cool things like partying all night, traveling across the countryside…oh wait, I tried that and it didn’t work for me. But the alcoholic in me still longs for my skewed perception of freedom, which involves no responsibility or ties to anyone.

My mom gave me a copy of Surrender to Love and I just started reading it tonight. I’m amazed at how easy it is for humans to believe the lies we have told ourselves about God’s love for us. We have somehow turned the unconditional, infinite love of Christ into a tool used to punish and bring shame to one another.  Since humans don’t like to be ridiculed and blamed, it’s no wonder with these sorts of perceptual errors that we would rather take matters into our own hands than trust in God, the life force of pure love.

From what I can tell, all of us cool people needed to tone down our negative emotions that could not be soothed by our mistaken mythology about an angry, punishing God. Instead we numbed ourselves until we couldn’t feel the pain. The problem is, we couldn’t feel the love any more either.

And so the paradox alights: In order to feel the crazy love of God, we must open ourselves up to the possibility of immense pain. For God is not going to force himself on us; he can only come in and heal those broken places if we are there to unlock the door and let him in.

I used to try to avoid the darkness in my soul through any means possible. I would have given anything to be cool. Now I’d rather be called a fool for love, and so I’m going to continue diving headlong into the abyss. The darkness is immense sometimes, but I am not afraid. Because today I know the light of God’s love that will reach in and draw me through to the other side.

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Symbiotic

My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents, and I lay them both at His feet.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Life is a tenuous, specific balance, all elements coming together in exact proportions in ratios. There are trace minerals in soil that, if present at 1% above or below the correct amount, can cause nutrient deficiencies or overdose in certain plants, thereby causing malnutrition in species that consume those plants. There are near misses all around us, most of which we will never detect. And yet, millions of species of plants and animals continue to thrive in a vast array of physical and social conditions.

For the past two weeks I’ve been a Permaculture Design student here at Koinonia, awash in patterns and observations, new ideas and new friends. As I learned about the delicate symbiosis that keeps us all going, I found myself in awe that anything survives at all. One tiny alteration in microscopic mycorrhizal fungi, and trees would be unable to spread their roots through the soil, plants would be unable to absorb the nutrients they need to grow.

And I have to admit that, although completion of the design course was one of the high points of my life thus far, I’m tempted to become a bit jaded about the equally delicate nature of human interaction. It was not easy to host 30 people in our home, to be open to their observations and feedback, and at the same time to be involved in such intense study and demonstration of the new ideas I was learning. The dance we humans perform for and with each other is a balance equally as awe-inspiring as the mycorrhizae and the trees.

Upon reflection, it’s tempting to get wrapped up in all the things that didn’t go as planned. But, as Gandhi reminded me today, everything is a blessing. And none of it belongs to only me.

I’ve been reading daily from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. If you’ve never taken a look at this book, I highly recommend it. You’ll be challenged to rely on God in all aspects of life, in the midst of joy as well as the depths of sorrow. Each day I feel my walk with God deepening, as I become willing to lay all of my baggage at his feet. Today, I received this gem from Oswald:

If our devotion is to the cause of humanity, we will be quickly defeated and broken-hearted, since we will often be confronted with a great deal of ingratitude from other people. But if we are motivated by our love for God, no amount of ingratitude will be able to hinder us from serving one another.

Perhaps the fungi understand what we humans have been struggling with for millenia. Survival is not about taking; it’s about service. As my recovery friends like to say, “You’ve got to give it away to keep it.” And so I’m going out into the world renewed by the permaculture message, ready to share it with all who are willing to listen. Not because I think I am somehow going to save the world, but because I feel God pushing me, pulling me, to share this message of hope.

The image of the tree’s relationship with the tiny soil micro-organisms helps me to see that, if my roots are in the healthy soils of God’s love, I must be open to symbiosis with the other souls around me. If I won’t work in relationship with them, I won’t receive the spiritual nutrients there. As much as I don’t want to admit it sometimes, I need you and you need me.

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