Thursday, October 24, 2013

This is the Ladies' Room

I walked into the ladies' room at a movie theater earlier today. A pretty asian girl was reapplying makeup at the mirror. She laughed at me. I froze. My body was frozen and my mind raced and my life reconnected with itself from earlier. I've been in a ladies' room before and everytime it's happened I've had an out of body experience, red cheeks, and an experience like floating in a pool of embarrasment as a waterfall of realization pummels me and I drown.  She laughed at me and I left. I went to the safety of urinals behind door number two. I began to laugh at myself. I tried to remember if I had said anything seconds earlier, if the laughing girl had been laughing at something ridiculous I had said, hoping to save face. I think I may have said, "whoops, this isn't right," or something painfully obvious. I took longer than usual in the men's room, hoping to miss the worst-possible-scenario of us both walking out of our respective rooms into the lobby of a small independent movie theater and having to make small talk. What would I even say? How immasculating. It's hilarious how quickly every ounce of confidence I have can be swept away. It's not  a big deal. It's hilarious. 

Adrenaline shoots through you when you make a mistake. People try so hard to be cool, but all you have to do is walk into the wrong door and every square foot of cool which you've cultivated over twenty seven years of life can be burned to the ground. My mistake today wasn't a big deal. Social mores and I guess decoram stipulate which toilet room I have to use, not a moral authority. True embarrasment, humiliation, is a much more serious thing. It can lead to a life of regret or hiding as everyone seems to want to poke fun at something you can't control. I didn't have that experience in high school. Not that I was better than people who were being made fun of, but I just got lucky. I didn't screw up. I didn't have "an accident" in PE and get ridiculed for it for the better part of half a decade afterwards (that happened at my school to one kid). I kept my head down enough to not stand out in any way that might get my head on the chopping block of mercilous high school razzing.

We aren't naturally very nice to one another. The idea of making someone seem less than human in order to reaffirm the herd's superiority is as old as cavemen. We still do it. Anyone different, weird, or even unlucky is subject to our derision. Heaven forbid something embarrasing happens to someone we don't like. We pounce like Hyenas on a freshly wounded wildebeast. We are so insecure in our skin we have to cut the skin of others in order to feel anything at all. It's all so much effort. Trying to be cool, trying to make someone feel worse, trying to be RIGHT, it's all such a waste of time. 

Learning to be secure is learning to fly. It's in being ourselves we find our freedom, our voice, and we learn how to play our part on earth. If you feel like you're working too hard at being a good person, you're right. If you feel you're trying too hard to fit in, you're right. Be yourself. It is my belief God created us to be ourselves. St. Irenaeus, besides having an amazing beard, was also responsible for one of my favorite sayings: "The Glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God." Just behold God like the mystic in you wants to do anyway. It's your heart's desire. You're hard-wired to long to participate in the divine nature and it's easy. Relax and just breathe Him in. Worry and embarrasment and shame are hard. Love and Joy and Peace are easy.

It's also totally fine to laugh at someone when he walks into the ladies' room.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

God Bless Johnny Cash: A Theology of Suffering

What do you do when you've never really had a tough life and you see a man almost die in front of you from being homeless and cold? What good do your worship choruses on Sunday do on Wednesday when you are stopped by a man with one eye who smells like he crawled out of a gin bottle to ask you for 75 cents? What do I say when a panhandler tells me his name is Paul, but sometimes he acts like Saul?

Maybe I'm a little like Saul sometimes too.

It's been said that Americans don't have a theology of suffering. Most people don't even know what that phrase means, so I guess I can say it's true. Your theology of suffering is how you see suffering in light of the truths of God's love and your experience of it both through scripture and experience. Sometimes being able to exegete life is more important than being able to exegete the Bible when it comes to suffering. When the worst happens, you really don't want to hear about all things working together for the good of those who are loved by Him and called according to His purposes. It really doesn't help the crap in your life in that moment. When you're homeless, a tract doesn't feed you. It doesn't give you a fix for the raging craving that surges through your veins and compels you to seek out the next hit. What do you do with that?

Nihilism starts to creep in if you aren't careful. You start to believe that everything is destined to fail and that life is miserable. You could also become a theological escape artist who dismisses suffering as "part of life in a fallen world" while your hope remains in the good life to come. One glad morning, when this life is over, I'll fly away. Just a few more weary days and then--I'll fly away.

Seems like that's a cop-out.

Right now I'm reading Cash by Johnny Cash. His last autobiography, Cash goes through his entire life and all he has learned. He goes through all the pain in his life--both the pains he experienced himself and the pain he put on the shoulders of others through his addictions and ego. Throughout the entire book, there is a thread of light being sewn into the story of Cash's life. His suffering, his pain, was all real and most of it brought upon his head by his own actions. Yet, there was redemption. His family and friends and pastors were always ready to usher him back into the light--where he belonged. He seemed to always know God was right there by his side, protecting him and waiting for him to make a choice to return.


At the end of his life, Johnny Cash recorded several albums with producer Rick Rubin. These albums featured a stripped-down, raw sound and Cash's popularity soared. Why? Because people relate to the gravel in his voice. When Cash sang a song, it grabbed you somewhere deep. He could cover a song and make it sound like he lived those words. His music resonates with hipsters and hippies and cowboys because it is real. His theology of suffering was one we can all relate to. Suffering is a necessary part of life. It is a part of a fallen world. But suffering is not the whole story. There is a light that the darkness cannot overcome. God is light. God is always there in our suffering. God is made strong in our weakness, and God can use our most feeble state to build us into the best version of ourselves. Cash isn't Cash without his struggles. Life is full of pain, but God is great--and God is good. Cash is boring without the parts about his addiction. Your story is going to involve suffering, but grace is there too.

God bless Johnny Cash. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Friends, Dance Parties, and Holiness

Your body tells you what it needs. It tells you when you are hungry or thirsty, when you need something salty, when you need something sweet. It also tells you to go to bed. Learning to listen to your body is key to living a healthy life. Your soul tells you what it needs too. Sometimes you need a wave, sometimes you need to breathe mountain air, sometimes you need to see friends, sometimes you need to clear the furniture out and put on 90's one-hit wonders. Learning to listen to your soul is important. 

Talk to that guy.
Smile at that girl.

Take

A

Break.

This past weekend was one of the best weekends I can remember. Farmer's markets, old friends, new friends, college football, bike rides, and furniture assembly. I did everything I wanted to do, but the best thing was allowing my mind to rest for an entire day this Saturday. Me and my friend/brother Skot, a man so close to my heart, needed some help putting some patio furniture together. Laughing and screwing up patio furniture and then getting it right and then watching LSU get beat, me and Skot "wasted" a tremendous amount of time on Saturday. I was at his house literally all day. When his wife Jamie got home, she cooked us dinner and then more friends showed up, so we had a dance party.

The next day I woke up with a miserable cold. If having fun Saturday made me sick on Sunday, it was worth it. The pastor at Denver United church was talking about how we as small stones are being built into a church. How we, like the Israelites crossing the Jordan, need to pile our stones to point future generations to where God has taken us. If you have a moment of clarity after an amazing day, and you realize how The Lord gave you rest, make a point to mark it. Write a journal or something. Don't forget it. 

There will come a day where you need markers to look back on to make sure God is still with you. Days like this weekend are proof to me of God's love for me and His desire to surround me with brothers and sisters who love me. 

God is great, but God is also good. He is looking out for you. He wants you to relax, calm down, take a break, rest, and see how good He is. 

Clear out your furniture. Dance to some terrible music. Eat a good meal. Don't check your email for a while. Just be still for a bit, and you'll see God. 

About Drew

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A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.