Wanting someone else, part 2

Here’s my little follow-up to some responses to “Wanting someone else.” A few points to clarify:

Actually, I’m gonna let Walter Brueggemann (theologian) do some talking first: “Sexuality is good and is ordained by God as part of creation. … Sexual identity is part of creation, but it is not part of the creator. Sexuality, sexual identity, and sexual function belong not to God’s person but to God’s will for creation. … Sexuality is ordained by God, but it does not characterize God. It belongs to the goodness God intends for creation” (Genesis, 33-34).

So I’m not saying that sexuality and our identity as single people are as essential to our being or image as culture pushes on us. But here’s something I’m wrestling with: on the one hand, Jesus—“in whom the fullness of God dwelled”—was single for his entire life and ministry. But that’s not to say that he didn’t necessarily feel the same wants and desires that we do—perhaps including the one for a partner. (Perhaps not; some may not agree with that position theologically.)

Perhaps it was that his understanding of his Father’s love for him was enough. His understanding of his place in God’s story was enough. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t ‘with someone’ like culture told him he should be because he knew whose opinion mattered. Perhaps if I was in a more content relationship with God, it wouldn’t matter as much; perhaps if I was concerned with the one opinion that counted, it wouldn’t matter as much.

The bottom line is: I have community; I have accountability; I have people to laugh with and cry with and pray with and live life with; I have people who are seeking to do the same things that I am; I know that I am loved. And I know a lot of single friends who are in this same place. The one thing that we do not have, that we cannot achieve or attain, is to be wanted.

And for us, that is the one thing that continues to hold tension …

[The ellipsis is symbolic of the tension. :)]

Daring to be true

One of the points from this morning’s sermon, taken from Galatians 4:8-20, was that one of the pastor’s responsibilities is to tell the truth, even if it is hard to accept. That is integrity. To speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). The challenge was this: what do we do when we are faced with a hard truth, an inconvenient truth? Do we face it and take it on, or do we flee from it, covering our ears and shouting to drown out the noise of truth?

I think it applies not just to the pastor/congregation relationship, but also more generally to people and the truth. As people of God, as followers of Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, it is our responsibility, our obligation almost, to seek the truth, wherever it may be found. I believe that all truth is God’s truth. If it is truth, it will line up with the person of Jesus Christ; and if it does this, then it is true.

Take the example of the Apostle Paul: at the beginning of Acts, he was doing what he thought was the truth, persecuting the followers of Jesus, who claimed he was the Messiah. Based on his understanding of Scripture—“cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree”—it was impossible that the crucified man from Nazareth could be God’s anointed. And then he was confronted with the truth: that this same man who had been crucified was not only God’s anointed, but himself God. So Paul had to reorient his theology around the truths of Jesus as God, Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus as cursed. Not an easy reorientation, by any stretch of the imagination.

Even, and especially, when it isn’t an easy truth to digest, when it’s a truth that requires a paradigm shift, or learning a new way of being in relationship, or figuring out a new way of understanding God, it’s tempting to just give up. Any time there is opposition or difficulty or a mindset-shift, it always seems easier just to back down, to let it go, to move on, to continue just as we always have been. But it’s in coming through, with the help of God and with a community of support, that we really grow and learn and become more of who we were meant to be.

This weekend has been one of reorientation—and it’s still going on. I’m still far from where I want to be, but I know that—though it is and will be hard to live differently, though it will be a challenge and I will be tempted (again) to just throw in the towel—ultimately it is leading me to a truer way of living, a truer way of relating, a truer way of being who God meant me to be.

And whatever reward lies at the end of it will be all the sweeter for the striving.

From the pen of a loved one …

Busy lives. People rushing. Cars honking, bicycles, rickshaws, taxis. Self-involved.

See the world through your own eyes, not understanding perspectives or preferences of others. Focused on here and now not there or then.

‘Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ I don’t want to live with my eyes on trouble every single day. To be consumed with here and now and limitations and problems. To live in the bubble of what I see, hear and do.

I want possibilities. Endless possibilities. The Far Pavilions and the horizon and the dreaming spires. I want ideas and dreams and gifts and waiting and hoping. I want to know the creator of the world in everything I do. To know the Spirit and the Soul behind the world at work in my character and personality. Not to stick with here and now or me exactly as I am.

Impatient for change but change takes time. Cogs and wheels turn. Things are set in motion. Things grow and are harvested. Things rot. Some are reborn.

God has plans for me. Far beyond small ideas he wants world-changers.

First he wants me-changing–hungry and thirsty. Pure through and through. Humble and meek. Giving mercy and receiving mercy from others. No room for fierce individuals with ideas like a fort that they hide inside.

Open, ready, generous, eager.

Come on Jesus.

— Ally Maughan, 6th July 2005

In the meantime …

I just watched the latest episode of 24. There are six episodes left until the end of the season, and having finished tonight’s, I was left profoundly dissatisfied. Not because it wasn’t good or exciting (thankfully, it’s picked up in the last few episodes), but because it wasn’t finished. I was tired of the lack of conclusion, of the fact that there isn’t a happy ending for Jack Bauer, at least for another six episodes. (And even then, we know he’s gonna have at least two more crappy days, based on the fact that 24 will be running for another couple seasons.)

I suppose it’s analogous to watching The Lord of the Rings, and having just finished The Two Towers, realizing that, amidst the jubilation following the Battle of Helm’s Deep, there’s still at least another three hours until a happy ending: Frodo and Sam still have a ways to go before they get to Mount Doom, Aragorn still hasn’t claimed his throne or gotten together with the girl (and that’s only going to happen if he survives). Maybe I’m alone in wanting happy endings, things to be all okay, and people to get along. But I don’t think I am.

See, I think it’s in all of us, this desire for a happy ending. It’s even in creation itself, according to the Apostle Paul, which “waits with eager longing, … groaning in labor pains” (Romans 8:19, 22) for the happy ending to come. From that statement, we can note a few things.

First, this desire for a happy ending – for an end to senseless war and violence and killing (yesterday, more than 30 people at Virginia Tech were shot), for an end to millions of people dying in Africa everyday because of lack of clean water and AIDS and other preventable diseases, for an end to dysfunctional relationships, betrayals of trust and heartbreak – this desire is natural; it is inherent in creation itself.

Second, there is a happy ending: it’s not just a pie in the sky theory that might possibly come true; it’s gonna happen, whether we want it or not; Jesus is coming back, whether we want him to or not (Isaac Newton predicted that Jesus would come again in 2060; only 53 years to go …).

And finally, it’s gonna hurt in the meantime, it’s gonna be hard. Now I’ve never experienced labor pains. And I’m glad I never will. But I have many friends who have given birth, and have shared their experiences (one of the wonders of living on a hallway with families). [Episiotomy: enough said.] It’s not going to be easy, being in this place of tension and longing for what’s to come.

But here’s an encouraging final thought: in the meantime, we’re not alone. Jesus said: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age (i.e. until he comes back again)” (Matthew 28:20). And life with Jesus now … it can also be pretty good. Go figure.