Monday, January 18, 2010

"/" Life

You've probably heard the phrase already/not yet, particularly as it refers to faith and the fulfillment of what we hope & trust for. It's a fairly routine way of describing this understanding: God is at work among us--but it's obvious to even a blind eye that God's work is far from complete.
I've come to realize recently how much I live in the "not yet" of this phrase. I have HUGE dreams and expectations for what God's kingdom must look like, and I'm inspired and exhilarated by these visions of wholeness. On the other hand, this visceral connection to the beauty and hope of these unrealized expectations creates in me a powerful sense of disconnect and pain--sometimes even panic. Our world is SO FAR from what God designed it to be! How can I sleep at night when there's this jagged tear down the fabric of reality between what is and what should be?!
On Sunday morning, I walked forward to participate in the Eucharist with the thought: "This, at least, is already." Jesus has already taken human form; his life, death & resurrection have already happened, and have already introduced us to God in a unique way. How grateful I was that, however briefly, I could rest in the already. Just as the cup came my way, however, the minister smiled apologetically and whispered, "Sorry. I've just run out. I'll be right back."
I knew there was more wine behind the altar, and I was pretty sure she wasn't taking off through the back door, so I knelt patiently and waited with confidence, knowing she'd be right back and we'd pick up where we'd left off.
Then the lightning bolt struck. Here, at the altar rail, I found myself in the midst of already & not yet. And I was calmly, patiently, and in full contentment, waiting. It hadn't crossed my mind to panic. Or to demand immediate fulfillment. The blood of Christ had already been offered, and would inevitably be given. I just needed to rest a bit on the cushions till it showed up.
A few moments later, I walked back down the aisle, tongue tingling from the sip of wine, eyes burning with threatening tears. As a hands-on learner, I know when I've been taught a lesson.
If only I could learn to rest in that "/", that place between already & not yet. The way I'm wired, there's no danger I'll ever settle in the already. But that doesn't mean I have to pitch my miserable tent in the "not yet". I have been given a vision of that middle ground, the space that honors what God has already done, as well as what God has promised to do. My place is to perch in between.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The flip side

Last time I posted, I was thinking about beauty. Since then, I've done some thinking about ugliness.
In contrast to Mr. Beautiful, I've also come across folks in my life who have made (or are making) choices that have (or will) make them ugly. Interestingly enough, not all those choices are patently wrong, or even objectionable. Some of them, in fact, are encouraged or viewed as healthy. Take, for instance, our culture's fascination with authenticity. I'm all for honesty--don't get me wrong--but it seems there's something in our need to "put it all out there" that can twist around and bite us. Somehow, in our quest to be healthily transparent, we can develop a harsh, self-centered air that holds others at bay.
Or, take for instance, our fascination with self-fulfillment. I think it's glorious that we live at a time & in a place where we even have the time & energy to ask these questions. Most of humanity, sadly, probably hasn't even had a term for such a notion. We're richly blessed to not only know it exists, but to have the freedom to pursue it. But I've also seen that our drive for fulfillment can create a coldness towards others, a sort of self-contained sense of purpose that excludes the needs and desires of those around us.
Interestingly enough, choices like these (and countless others that might be less controversial), when allowed to dominate, show through in our eyes. They shape our face, and I think even determine where some of the inevitable wrinkles will fall.
Which leads me to conclude, with 40 fast approaching, that now is definitely the time to be making choices that will enhance beauty. I think I'd rather like to be remembered someday as "that gorgeous old lady in the checkout lane".