Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Lament

So, I'm about to incriminate myself with my words, because other people who disagree are sure to read this as soon as I post it. Thus disclaimed, moving on...

Last night was one of those nights when the war against frustration loses ground on every front. Kat and I were met with disappointment about an apartment we wanted to rent. A good friend who was going to be at my wedding will be unable to come, her family benevolently finalized her absence - and I felt slightly abandoned by that (perhaps it was my low self-esteem rearing its weeping head). Amongst a few other things which I cannot remember now (and that's a good thing), I went to one of the worst concerts of my life. I find that difficult to say, because my friends were part of it. To their credit, they are better people than that concert reveals, but I was quite frustrated with the whole thing, because they were choir members trying to sing in a band. You simply can't do that. You can't act like a choir and make a band work. In a choir, you can hate the person across the room and it won't make any difference, since you're following a conductor and a pianist. In a band, you must be in accord with everyone, or it won't gel - and it will show in the music. I was frustrated, because the mentality of the music department pervaded the night - dry and mechanical. There were two people among about ten that enjoyed what they were doing. The rest may or may not have done well at hiding the fact that it was a job to them. I was frustrated, because microphone training and a good mix were all but non-existent. I was frustrated, because it was a packaged and priced product masquerading as art, and masquerading in Jesus name. I wanted to throttle them all by the shoulders and shout in their faces, "DO YOU KNOW LOVE?! DO YOU KNOW THE MAKER AND LOVER OF ALL THINGS?!" The product presented wore salvation on its sleeve and wore it badly to boot, using such words as "invoke the spirit of God" (as if such a thing could be done by a man, and as if God's spirit was a thing occasionally present in the air and not everlastingly in the hearts of men whom he has taken), and doing such things as praying to be heard by men and speaking rehearsed speeches as genuine communication between the performers and the audience.

To my friends who did what they were supposed to do and who read this, you are wonderful people, made worthy of the work in the Kingdom of God to which you have been and will be called. I love you, and forgive me any hurt I may have caused you with these words. Instead of taking them as offense, please strive to take my criticism as a point of reference for building the band you are striving to be. Understand that I want you to believe the words you preach, and that I want you to know Love before you know all other things, as I want for myself. I love you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Death of Romance

So now you've seen the drifting my mind does in the thick of evening - at least if you read my last post. Now let me address something that has bothered me for a couple years. It seems that for a while now, the going cosmopolitanism has been to get on an internet dating service, and though this seems pretty one-sided to begin with, 'Christendom' (as Timothy Keller puts it) had to put it's product out under the shaky terrestrial umbrella of marketing. While simply following the world to keep oneself relevant is self-stultifying and certainly not Kingdom-minded, this is a deceptive idea to an even greater end for followers of Christ who know True Love in our Lord.

I constantly hear folks talking about how they met someone, or how they'd like to meet someone (to fall in love with and marry, that is). While this is not necessarily wrong, and prayer for such things is certainly not wrong (God can always say yes or no of his own choice), I believe the prevalence of this type of attitude - and the attitude of dating/dumping/shopping - reveals a deep misunderstanding of love. It appears that people think that love is when you find someone with similar interests, whose looks attract you, and whose touch or compliment sends you into mental ecstacy. The church is the people of God, and the buildings where they meet should not be houses of happenstance match-making. Nor should any other place. You see, love is so much more than finding someone who likes long walks on the beach and who doesn't want a dog and who wants 2 or 3 kids (all girls, as if they had any control). If we look into our Scriptures, we see that "this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." We see that "love is patient...kind...not envious...not boastful." Nor rude or self-seeking. Nor mistrustful. The entire Song of Solomon is devoted to the expression of love between a husband and wife (though it has much more meaning), but we should not take for granted that they know each other. They've spent time together. They have sex and it's wonderful, but preemptive to their sexual relationship is their knowledge and appreciation and tolerance of one another. "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for her." To give oneself to someone attempts to create communion (closely related to communication - hence the word structure), and communion goes vastly beyond sexual intercourse or even physical touch. Love is sacrifice, first and foremost. It is not finding someone who pleases your eyes and ears and touch. It is a giving of yourself to someone. Yourself, your essence, what makes you You. It is the giving up of the You for the betterment of the Her or the Him.

Several years ago, I asked my mom what she thought about whether people were matched up before they were even born, and whether they were supposed to find one another and marry (whether they were MFEO, to the Sleepless in Seattle fan). She said to me that she used to think so, but after being married for so long, she rather thought that you could marry anyone in the world, as long as you were willing to live with them. This lie of 'match-making' may have a wonderful turn-out rate, but if I were a bettin' man, I'd say the turn-over rate is quite high as well - if people are basing relationships on the unsacrificial enjoyment of another's company. Make no mistake, I don't think internet or phone dating services are wrong. They are a great way to meet people, and meeting people is how relationships begin (and yes, I know that all relationships are different in structure and genesis). But it still takes a sacrificial attitude to maintain a loving relationship with a person. For most strongly knit couples, you would find it commonplace to hear them say something about their spouse such as, "so-and-so is my best friend." I've never heard of anyone searching the web or the phonebook for a best friend (though I'm sure someone will invent such a thing soon enough). I am not presenting this challenge for those who don't know Jesus Christ, since it is ridiculous to expect Christ-like behavior from a Christ-less world. Those who claim to be in Love (and I'm speaking of our Lord) should know better the structure and nature of love between two people.

For us hopeless romantics (and I have yet to meet someone who is a pure realist), this does not preclude romance in a relationship. We should instead be reminded that romance, however intoxicating, is not love unless love already exists without it.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Dizzily Directed

Sometimes I sit down to write and everything that I've been wanting to say for the past three weeks finally plops down and refuses to speak, now that I have the opportunity to write it down. It's like it's sitting in a theatre seat waiting to see what I'll do since I find my fingers struck by a sudden muteness. Hopefully this will not be one of those entries.

Kat and I have been house-hunting, perchance to dream. If you think you're not a dreamer or a hopeless romantic, I challenge you to say the same after you've sought out a place to live and run through the countless naive possibilities in your mind. We saw dusty corners and found each other. We tempered each other's dreams with direction (not necessarily reality, but sort of). I find yet again how much I love that woman. We found a little apartment behind a house and above a garage that is currently designated as a storage area. The house would have been a little more fun, but it was out of our price range. There's not much in our price range, but we'll make it. I have to be a little naive, or else I'll slip dangerously over a chasm of cynical backsliding. I can't wait to graduate. I can't wait to get married. I've known as little about the future these past several months as I've ever cared to know, and I've never been as hopeful and as fearful as I am now. I long for things yet unheard of, and mostly untold. Only one person besides me knows, and that's only because she knows me better than I know myself (I've lost my edge of unpredicability only to gain another edge that I've not yet fully explored).

I went to see Derek Webb this past weekend. I am starting to find myself less limited by the rules that we in the Church often mandate as 'Christian'. I read Timothy Keller's essay on the Church as a missional body. These changes in my world-view are more affecting myself than those around me. I don't know if I'll ever change the world in the church-planting realm, but the mess of life and beauty is starting to intertwine itself into a borderless and peaceable mass in this crazily-ticking heart. I love my Father more and life is certainly beautiful. This entry is very wandering and haphazard - words falling like a pensive drizzle, thoughtful and silently disquieting in a strange and loving way. Sometimes I feel like I don't belong here, sometimes I know I'm right. I am hesitant to speak of myself as saved, but it's not up to me. The world will know by this ring that I wear that I am not for sale. I certainly belong to another. The comfort I find in that is strange and misunderstood. It goes down cold and sometimes slightly bitter. It curdles into a yearning in my gut, swirling in currents and eddies that carry me somewhere like a dead sycamore leaf on the wide and dark Holston. I remember hearing about a boy drowning in its waters, and I wonder if I will not do the same, but as Peter steps out of the boat, so I have jumped into this cold up to my shoulders. It bears me somewhere still in the river-borne mist.