This is one of many handwritten journal entries from my little spiral, written about a year ago. Thought I would share it. Writing by hand is a very different muscle.
Sitting at Starbucks, I overhear all sorts of cheery, gloomy, nitpicky, inconsequential conversations over strange matters like a brother’s behavior, a husband’s problems, how a professor “don’t teach right,” and “what we gonna do later.” There is at once an intense interest in the doing of life but almost a bored detachment – an emptiness ignored – that underlies their voices like a second melody. They care – I care – but don’t, really.
We are a weird people dabbling in fleeting streams of isolated self-orbiting with both a furious investment but a quick instinct to disengage when the pursuit is no longer interesting. Except this uninteresting pursuit is always interesting: it’s the greatest devil’s irony of our touch-and-go maze called life. Most of us never see how facile, futile, and flawed this “dabbling” really is. For a moment, maybe, there is an existential panic that there may be more than this rented country, but we have so slyly learned to train our ignorance and denial.
No one enjoys contending anymore, unless it’s for – especially if it’s for – these non-essential “freedoms” that don’t much matter. “Rights” to internet, free checking accounts, contraceptives, same-sex unions, better labor conditions, religious properties and space, medical care, or fair market – these are important, even critical, issues; but in what direction do they flow? By what authority do we have these “rights”? And how do they have a louder voice than attention to poverty, genocide, suicide, misogyny, and actual human dignity?
We are distracted by temporal high interest but keep a foot out the door for easy escape. This is the least committed generation to the most critical of matters. We sign petitions as if this is movement, but often fail to lift a finger or give a penny for the physically disabled and dying. Then we do, but it’s for show, to raise our reputation and put in the good work for a day – to appease our troubled conscience. Then it’s back to the meat market of our self-circling “pursuits.”
I wish I could express (and fully believe) in God’s big picture here. To reverse this epidemic: to have a disinterest for the world-temporal matters and a high commitment for the unshakeable. Of course our conflicts, dilemmas, drama, disorders, and politics hold qualitative weight – they matter. But they are only in passing. They are just a part of life and never life itself. To see us make them into life is both amusing and tragic to witness.
When the lesser is made greater, we’re left with a bloated, airy, insubstantial ghost of great color but little else. It becomes the go-to cause for the empty masses to latch and hold and champion, but in no way does it outlast itself. The few movements that have done so – charity, equality, creative freedom, grounded authority – lasted because they were intrinsic to God’s nature and directly of the Kingdom of Christ.
Whether we see it as purposeful or incidental, the supernatural opened a portal and handed an instrument of the Heavens into the weary hearts of other-minded individuals for a countercultural good. It has been this way since time itself was given to us. The goodness of God breaks in, intrudes, we see but for a moment the truth to our endless existential desires – and a few hold on. Many do not.
It is a heavenward journey. Humility is to insist that we are in a place not above our fellow man nor below the use of our virtuous calling given by God. No man sits on a throne forever, nor can any man eat from the floor for long. To invest in either is to forget our place and to build a home too close to earth, which is not our final conclusion. To watch us try: it is the stuff of reality shows and tragic headlines and cynical comedians and satirical commentary and an intuitive reflex in us that knows we do not ultimately belong here.
I have little idea how to tell people about this. Occasionally I see it in preaching, like showing the students (and myself) a whole new world of real possibilities. It happens more and more. For years I preached in guilt, fear, shame, using such weapons on purpose and subconsciously because they worked on me and because I was built on them. A person built on these for the long-term does not truly live.
I’m trying to see now. To see those supernatural possibilities. To see how one blood-purchased, grace-given, loved-on life (me, you, everyone) can really move past the passing and into the permanent. Life is very short here but real life is forever. That real is what God intends to give, the gift of His own being. We cannot confuse the gifts with Him: then they’re no longer gifts but our own witless inventions. Then it’s back to self-selected imprisonment. I’m not interested in going back there. I once was blind, and I’d prefer to continue to see.