The Imaginary Obstacle of Measuring Up

That’s the second-to-last track on my friend John Daniel’s album. Listen here. Stewing in this peaceful ambient drone and contemplating this title, I’ve come up with a few thoughts.

Measuring up is an obstacle; and for those of us who are trusting Christ, it is imaginary. Those around us may live under the weight of Eden ruined—under the wreckage of what was once the Garden. But we don’t. Sometimes we choose to, when we forget Christ; but we don’t have to.

Might makes right, and political power comes from the barrel of a gun. When you pare away the bureaucracy and the democracy and even the theocracy, there’s nothing more to it. When I hop over the broken fence and wander down to the shores of Lake Rockwell to write, I’m hurting no one. I could be arrested, sure; but there is no metaphysical superiority in that act of arrest. There is only a superiority of power. I am not displeasing God when I sit on the shore of his beautiful and forsaken wilderness and write a story about his redemption; I’m displeasing only those who fear that I will pee in the Akron water supply. I would never do that. Fundamentally, what they don’t know won’t hurt them or anyone else.

Those who pretend to hold power over us exploit our most basic ruin—the Edenic fear of a God scorned. They have only that power which we give them, a power in proportion to the lack of our faith in Christ. This is perhaps what Paul means by freedom in Christ.

Now, don’t go complaining. This is not some flippant anarchism or Jesus-meets-revolution, man. Rather, it’s a call to change our perspective. Doing what The Man tells us to do is still a viable part of the Christian’s calling—but it must be out of love for the person (sometimes a friend, sometimes a stranger) who would be damaged by our neglect. It must never be out of fear of what The Man will do to us. Because fundamentally, The Man, our unworthiness, and the obstacle of measuring up are illusory if we are trusting Christ.

The kingdom; the city

As I move from my early twenties (that time of life when it is all life, all possibility) into my mid-twenties (that time of life when possibilities dry up and you are squeezed and funneled more and more into a point), I find the promise of the kingdom, of true citizenship, taking on a sudden poignancy.

I belong here less and less. I was not made to be judged by my production or my achievements. I was not made to be judged by my resume or how I carry myself physically. I was made to be, and to do only in the garden. There, I wouldn’t be seen through a lens of distrust; I would be seen as God’s child, a worker whose worthiness would never have been questioned. This is why I weep for us, for Eden.

To one who is homeless in spirit and at heart (if not yet physically, though doubtless that will come too), the promise of a kingdom in Luke 12:32 and of a city prepared for us in Hebrews 11:16 is the missing piece. This is not your average city, with its good neighborhoods and bad, its emphasis on commercialism and increasing the tax base. This city is true polis. This city glows.

And we don’t have to be afraid, because he has chosen to give it to us.

The universe is set up on give and take. You can’t live in a city, in a house, without it starting to live in you. Our relationship with God is even more consummate. In Ephesians 2:19 we inhabit. In 2:22, we are his temple; we are inhabited.

God gives us city, polis, the life of community in total. And, in total idiotic flipping-things-on-their-heads (always a sign of the strange logic of Christ), we, we broken disgusting sinners, become city, polis, the life of community in total, for God.

He put all things in subjection under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.

(Ephesians 1:22, 23)

Ego: the weight of the world

Ego is the most tiring thing I know of. The heaviness of having to prove your awesomeness, of needing to be better than everybody else, is too much for me to bear. I want the simple times when my heart was a bowl filled with clear water. Light could pass right through me then. I was full not of substance, but of emptiness (the one true substance). You were more to me then, Lord, than now, when I am weighed down with the ponderous fear of failure. How can I fail, unless I empty myself of you and replace you with myself?

How can I succeed, unless I empty my bowl of myself and fill it with you?

Ego=fear

I’m happy just because I found out I am really no one.

Bright Eyes, At The Bottom Of Everything

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qikRcAiCtKM

To be someone is too great a burden.

If I’m someone, I have to keep up; I have to do it right; I have to play the game.

If I’m someone, I have to tell God he is three in one because all good Christian someones do.

If I’m someone, I have to plunge upwards alone in the great climbing wall of life, stepping on every living human foothold below me until I can stand on the head of every other climber who wants my job.

If I’m someone, I have to fight for my space, wherever I live, and exclude those around me from my moment-to-moment existence.

If I’m someone, I can’t trust others to drive my car, use my computer, or touch my things. Oh, and I certainly don’t have gas to drive half a mile and give someone her forgotten phone charger.

Ego is fear. Fear of society’s judgment regarding lifestyle choices; fear of losing salvation for not telling God the right things about him; fear of getting stepped on and falling off the climbing wall; fear of having my personal space violated mentally, emotionally, or physically; fear of having my expensive possessions damaged by the careless hacks who annoy me all day long; and fear of running out of gas.

To be no one is weightless.

If I’m no one, I can tell God that I accept whoever he is with open arms.

If I’m no one, I can accept his forgiveness without the weight of trying to do it myself as if I were someone.

If I’m no one, I can let go of the climbing wall and float.

If I’m no one, I can experience nothing but joy when someone else comes crashing into my personal space.

If I’m no one, my car, my computer, my gas, are all nothing to me, and they’re more useful when they’re helping a someone than when they’re rotting in front of no one.

Pretending to be someone makes us fearful–for good reason. There is only one Someone, and he made us all no ones. The weightlessness of no-one-ness is incomparable.

Synthesized from face-to-face conversation with Matthew A. and Facebook comments from Matthew A. and Ryan S.

Oh, it was a wonderful splash.


The kids of my generation agree

The kids of my generation agree

we aren’t free to question what’s passed down.

Allowed to make professions in a box

with locks containing papal writ,

we sit inside our heads and wonder

what’s under the floorboards of this holy place.

God is one. In self-abasement he accepted our evil, the very thing that we claim will send sinners to hell. The father didn’t smash a man with a hammer; our wounded lover ate his pain and reached back out to us. There was no justice, only forgiveness.

The kids of my generation agree

We aren’t free to ask who you really are.

We’re sorry if it hurts you, but we know

you flow in a moment’s change of eternal who-you-are

and you, never contained, will always wait one step behind

the mind that says you’ve disappeared.

Does it ever get easier?

“Does the life of faith ever get easier?” asked the student. “It must get easier as you move through life’s stages.”

The white-haired teacher laughed. “No, no. It only gets harder. Faith is a knife, and its job is to cut. Why would it stop cutting? That would mean it was dead. There’s always one more layer below the one that faith has just conquered, and some layers are tougher than others.”

“So this pain…”

“Do you want it or not?”

The uselessness of doctrine

Perhaps I’m just a rebellious jerk, but I don’t like being told what to do, what to think, or what to believe. Details of denominational distinction disgust me. My gut tells me a simple truth, and I find the heaping upon of doctrine irrelevant to my relationship with God.

I seem to have three types of days.

Type one: I wake up well-rested, find the sun shining on my bed, enjoy my breakfast, and feel the calm presence of God as I get ready for my day.

Type two: I wake up tired but ready to sacrifice, largely open to an unknown future.

Type three: I wake up and feel like I got run over by a truck. You know the rest.

It doesn’t matter in any of these situations whether I was baptized as a baby, as a kid, or as an adult. It doesn’t matter if I was baptized at all. It doesn’t matter if I’ve taken communion recently. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been a good boy and gone to Sunday school. It doesn’t matter if I think we’ll have free will in heaven.

All that matters is that I drag my spirit with all its baggage into the presence of God and lay it before him without holding back. This means I bring my nastiness along with my goodness. This means I bring the grudge I’m holding and the fears I have about the future. It means I bring my endless worrying about my car’s front suspension and my rage at getting a parking ticket.

Laying these before God without holding back means that I release them to him. I no longer cling to the grudge and my self-righteousness; I no longer cling to the belief that I can control my future if I am smart enough and responsible enough; I no longer cling to the belief that my careful driving habits can make my car last for ten years.

Also, it means I have to stop fantasizing about ramming that damn parking services truck.

FEAR

Fear is not real; it’s a lens through which you can come to see the world. Events are real, but not when they are imagined. Most imagined events never come to be; many real events were never imagined.

Fear is nothing more than a mental projection of the future that sees the glass as half-empty. Often it appears to be the result of rational analysis, but it is in fact entirely emotional.

Sudden reactions of fear are easily managed, but a pervasive life-attitude of fear is insidious. Waking up morning after morning with the nagging thought I might not make ends meet today will lead you to a dreadful degeneration of soul; likewise the thoughts I might not be pretty enough today; I might not work hard enough today; I might not be good enough today.


For those of us who claim to be Christians, this twists our noble minds into tired machines with only one output: fear. Hello, we were made for something better: joy.

I never understood the word faith until I had learned the meaning of fear. Faith is not a declaration of willful placement of trust, but an admittance of a lack of will in the matter. Do you get it? A willful placement of trust is actually an act of fear, an attempt to control your world and get things in order. True faith says nothing to God but I present myself.

God, I do not even choose to trust you. When I do this, I do it under my own power, believing in my own will, trying to get my ducks in a row by bringing you back into my life. All I do now is turn around, find you there just like before, and acknowledge that you are.