June 23, 2013

the lives we were given are the lives we are given. yeah? yeah.

(this post is long. and it is about God and the past four months. that’s the only warning you’re getting.)


I have five things due. I have four assignments up in the air now, unfurling as I juggle, and I’m trying not to think about it. Succeeding, mostly, but the inside of my head is a round room awash with words like pericope and sui generis and humanae vitae, questions like who the hell was Hadad-Rimmon and can I get all this done before Friday and what can I afford to fail and what happened at Meggido anyway. I can tell you a little bit about Vatican II. I can tell you a little bit more about the vicarious humanity of Christ, especially with regards to doubt. I can sing a little bit of the song I wrote last night which is insufficiently Trinitarian for the purposes of my assignment (how, how I am to work the breathing tide of the Trinity into the type of song I can write is another question I am currently leaving to float on its own). I can even tell you I haven’t started researching 1 Samuel yet. If you look through my eyes you’ll see the waters rising. The sea is inside and out. The portholes are open and the sky outside is blank as the walls, bright and restless as the water.

am I going to survive this? I don’t know. I don’t know. but I’m a little bit further away from collapse, from giving in, from folding it up and turning in towards bed as my automatic paralysis, an outdated habit. it doesn’t fit anymore, anyway. these old clothes. what was that you said about new creation (uncomfortably between one skin and another, or perhaps in the new dress our bodies recall the fit and shape of the old from the way it dug into our bones) -?

I am being found, and it is an odd thing, the way you hardly notice it happening, the way it isn’t something from outside your life but merely part of it, merely the book you’re reading and the place you are and the words your lecturer said this morning, or the assignment you’re working on now. And I’ve been part of this long enough to know when too many tiny coincidences add up to not a coincidence but it doesn’t feel supernatural or alarming or unnatural; no strange intrusion of God into the world like an alien irruption, no suddenly audible voice or a shaft of light in a dark room, deus ex, no intrusive hand from above. No invasion of an entirely alien Other, come to tell us all.

It’s just- the slow accruing of details. The right book with all the right words, all the right thoughts I can understand because I’ve learned to think like that, because of where I am now. The slow pile-up of the right words, the right experiences through a day, a week, a semester. Maybe a lifetime. Rich layers of instances that are just part of being awake, sitting in class, talking to people, being given lifts, listening to the lecturer, doing readings, writing essays, researching, instances of just being everyday and alive piling up on each other until they inform each other, interconnect, suddenly enlighten. Say this is what this meant, this is why this was. Seeing in technicolour retrospect, hindsight opening up in the present, and the past being only a few days ago, yesterday, earlier this morning.

Like being emailed a list of books by the lecturer for an assignment, picking several and reading them, and finding one that says exactly what you needed to know, answers exactly what you were asking the night before, all the questions you can pick carefully out and ask now out of the inchoate chaos of your previous howling because of the clarity you’ve learned this year and the things you’ve been taught in class, learning building on learning, all the insights you’ve gained these months stacking like discounts, or cards, or really odd stairs. And the book answers those questions in a language you understand uniquely because you’ve read that actually-somewhat-obscure book the writer’s talking about, years ago, and you know that concept because you lived it out and asked those exact questions, and you understand everything he’s saying and know what he means when he talks about the vicarious humanity of Christ because you’ve done an entire course about this subject.

And this is the right book at the right time saying the right thing that you needed to know, but it’s in your hands because you needed to read up on this for your assignment and you’re doing that with your head on your red coat and your legs propped up on the chair in the quiet and warmth of the chapel because the library’s too noisy. This is not an alien irruption of God, dude, or some flashbang miracle. It’s just schoolwork. And it’s just schoolwork, but these stacking coincidences, these rich and subtle layers of mundane everyday existence (layers of coincidence that have never been so rich or come so often before, or perhaps it’s only that you’re noticing them more now) are too close and too interlocking and fit too well together to be- well, not the Spirit. To be not God at work in and through the daily fabric and trudge and stickiness of human reality and textbooks and air-conditioning and too much tea.

God is not outside of my life, invading it from some astral plane outside this universe, invisible ousia arms shoved in to the elbow through the fabric of this reality to fix and directly mend my head and my existence and the brokenness of the world while he’s at it, a direct intervention of an impatient, if compassionate, surgeon with physical tools. That may have been what I wanted, what I expected implicitly but never had the clarity to put into words: I wanted deliverance, direct intervention, being plucked from the chaos, because this chaos is deeply unfun. But instead, I find my life is just- turning. Turning in the same way it feels fast trains turn corners when you’re sitting in them; tiny increments of space at a time, not so that you’d notice because each slight shift to the left is tiny, but a little further down the bend you’re headed in a different direction from where you first were aimed, and when you look back you can see the track bends behind you in a curve made of incremental shifts.

I believe that’s because the Spirit indwells us. Works from the inside of whatever this stuff we call being alive and awake and somewhat conscious is, tea and snuffy cold and late nights and all, and sometimes we notice and realise what God is doing and get in on it, and sometimes we don’t, but God- is at work nonetheless, before we even begin to try to participate. We are the body of Christ, and the God who made us so is part of our lives as naturally and as unconsciously as time (and sometimes we only realise what’s happened when we realise how we’ve changed).


When the principal of my school stood up at the beginning of the year and said to us you were called here, you are here because God means you to be here, I sat there defensive and skeptical and bitter with my open wounds and my knives and decided not to believe him because I needed to, because that’s how I stayed alive and sane, because I wanted him to be right but knew that believing anything of God was an incredibly stupid move (antifaith in action). And as I went to lectures and ate free lunches and made friends and panicked in the library and did my readings and sat and listened and occasionally cried during Chapel sessions and freaked out and wrote my essays and drank tea and watched endless games of table tennis, I began to notice the coincidences falling into place. And each time I noticed, I was all- oh, hey, look it’s God, and then moved on, because, y’know, I was practically born a Christian and the expectation that God does things in my existence is as much a part of me as bitterness is a part of my reaction to it. (The existence and action of God in life is not something I doubt. It’s the nature and goodness of God and his love that has always been the problem.)

Incremental shifts, though. I kept learning things. Like things about who God is, and his nature (Triune, if you haven’t figured it out yet from the number of times the concept’s found its way into my blogposts. Man, that word is like shorthand for a giant rabbithole of centuries of amazing complexity). And I do put phrases like God spoke to me in the same emotionally connotative box as God invaded my life from some astral plane outside this universe, because that’s how it sounds when someone says God spoke to me, and being able to take a course in my first semester of bible college about who God is and who God has revealed himself to be and what that means for us really doesn’t feel like God has disturbed the fabric of the universe to invade my life with thunderbolty manifestations. But I said a week after the beginning of the semester that I came here in order to find out who God was, and I said then that “I think I’m being told.” And I think I have been, and am being, told.

My principal was right. I’m here because God- intends for me to be here, careful as I still am of saying things like that. But I believe more than I did four months ago, careful as I still am of jumping to conclusions. And I believe God is at work in my life still, and that it may indeed be a good thing. What this means for my assignments and whether I’ll survive the next week’s onslaught and stresses, I don’t know, but- I am cautiously, and tentatively, hopeful of good things.


2 Responses to “confession”

  1. This made me cry… good good tears xoxo

  2. […] It rather rewrote some of my conceptions of God- or perhaps shed light on what was already happening, made it make sense, all of a sudden made understandable, visible patterns out of what had only seemed like an unexamined thicket of events, which is what life mostly seems like. Bara’. Creation of function and utility out of formlessness. I went to a talk on Genesis last night by Dr. John Walton, which posited an interesting alternative reading of Genesis 1 & 2 as not making statements necessarily on behalf of young earth creationism and against evolution, or in the words of a blog I scratched up online looking for that link, “the text is not trying to tell us how God created the universe or how long it took him to do it. Instead, the text is telling us important truths about who created the universe and what its ultimate purpose is.”* […]

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