Saturday, November 20, 2010
Desire, Beauty, Mystery, and the doctrine of a November "Let's Roll" roadtrip.
I lack a steady hand. I lack anything stationary in my scope or with the range of the bait I set carefully on the perimeter of my life. I am not sure I would recognize a clear target should one venture my way.
I no longer hunt, as if my sharp shooting would ever be any more accurate in producing a confessional than water boarding my keyboard. Believe this, if nothing else, that to write is to participate in a form of self-torture. To put yourself out there, to try to grasp who you are, what you are, and why you are---especially in a universe hell bent on diversion, is the firmest act of insanity.
So, be very glad that my hunting days lasted briefly and be gladder yet that a camera is now my only weapon. The stumbling, the feeling my way in the dark, and the flicker of hope that I seek, is best portrayed in a landscape, a waterfall, and in hues of color rather than black and white.
As a green carded resident of the continents of faith and desire, these two places that are most entangling and yet emancipating, I want to be documented and permanent. Yet as a foreigner, acknowledging this as my longest home address, I can not choose one over the other. I've become an ex patriot to myself. Still I struggle in this attempt at reconciliation, weighing the benefits of either land mass and wondering if joint residency is an option.
Last night I told a long term friend that I still believe in Jesus. My friend is roughly the same age, and he's a handsome man who still turns the heads of both sexes, and "Gene" seems far more adept at stumbling through short term ecstasy, middle age, and Guess stores than I.
I thought he knew about my immersion theology, or the wreckage that defines my mosh pit of faith.
Yet Gene seemed stunned---and this coming after several days of his acknowledgement that he doesn't know why I remain optimistic and hopeful after having endured so much uncertainty, loss, and physical estrangement. Gene, is the kind of friend that in academic circles would be considered a participant observer. Indeed, sometimes he's been way more of participant than observer. He's known me through some of the most unedited chapters of my unfit-for-daytime-church life.
So last night, you have to forgive him when he looked at me completely incredulous. "Jesus? You're still clinging to that Jesus crap! Tim? You? Really? And HOW does that work, exactly? I'm dying to know."
So as we rolled north on Highway 41, past meadows outlined with fresh snow, and chased moonlit swabbed cloud falls, with flurries landing on us like specks of bleach, I confessed, out loud, the doctrine of my belief.
I believe Christ was who he said he was. I believe nothing more. And nothing less. I explained the church doesn't want a guy like me, and that the feeling is more than mutual. I talked about the miraculous, that Christ broke boundaries rather than set them, and that the planet's most renewable resource is grace, forgiveness and love. I understand that this makes Jesus sound, like way green. Whatever. I know Jesus was a liberal even if sometimes I'm not able to connect the dots.
The force of grace, forgiveness and love is the most unstoppable force in the universe.
Condemnation, judgement, and keeping score---these are not sustainable. Life ends whenever they prevail.
I offered that I am equally invested in searching for God and exploring the mystery of desire. The beautiful image. The long straight stretch. The unexpected hour-long best friend that I will never encounter again. And that to invest in this way of life is like constructing a HGTV dream pad on a crumbling land bridge.
Gene speaks fluent HGTV.
After recent political happenings, where anger is our most common language, I seek stability of faith while admitting that all around me, especially in the gay community, belief is crumbling. The dark canyon between art and faith, the lush alpine valley leading toward mystery and desire and the secret unfathomable tension enabled when a creative, God given spirit is unleashed on a starving world, is all I want. We box in God as if the creator is nothing more than the next casualty of the feedlot. We do this when in actuality what we most need to do is set God free.
This blog, and these continents upon which I stand naked, drift ever further apart and Gene seemed troubled that I was calm, laughing, and that I'd not given up.
I am not in denial and I see a challenge that is difficult to navigate. My personal circumstances might define unfortunate but my horizon remains fused with hope, even as a gay man. How do we, or I even, talk about faith, sexuality, art, beauty, politics, and the mystery of this life with credibility when I can't know the final destination of where we're heading because its so brilliant we can only begin to imagine it?
When I am bombarded by bible verses and doctrines---these theology bombs that seem created by ancient Halliburton owned think tanks rather than the rooted in the divine, where is the reality of God? Intimately I know the church and that it is the most self serving and least pure of any of man's institutions. I see power and corruption and agenda's, but I do not see God.
Having said this, how then does a nomad like me pursue the open space that is Christ? Or define a place with few fence lines, one that encourages us to look not toward the rigid constructs of a faith that has done so many of us wrong but to a possibility of living lives that are brilliant, inspirational, and most importantly, that honors all the totality of what we've been blessed with while still incorporating the divinity that brought us to this place?
In a cynical world, how can we shine brightest, and be most honest with ourselves, each other, and in our dialogue with our maker about who we are?
I do not see the answer in a church, an apostle, nor in a prophet. I see not complexity, but simplicity. I think it is best demonstrated in a cross, a manger, and one well-lived life that I could never begin to understand, much less imitate.
As my friend and I rolled into the Selkirks, I explained Jesus in all that brilliance is equally a source of inspiration whether I'm at the Folsom Street Fair, the Kalispel's pow wow or the Glenn Workshop. The Jesus I can only begin to know does not define His boundaries, but expands love and possibility in every direction. Humanity, not God, is the source of constraint.
Our maker, knows us. Our comings. Our goings. The mystery of faith, is that we cling to something we can not see or really begin to wholly know. The more we seek, the more we find mystery. Indeed the more we pursue this God stuff, the less that fits in with our previous sense of experience. Maybe that is why Isaiah and the Psalmist David referred to God in images of Mountains and nature, because these physical things were among the largest reference points available to them. Now we have galaxies and black holes, yet even within our greatly expanded awareness, God still trumps this. Like the song Wynonna sings so perfectly states, I can only imagine. But I can not fully know. And I believe that there is no condemnation in that place of faith.
Gene was very quiet for the next twenty miles, and as we pulled into the driveway, one already brilliantly lit with Christmas lights, he remained deep in thought.
And that is the end of the story. But really, as the highways I travel extend both literally and figuratively into infinity, it is also the beginning of a greater narrative. Which is the entire point of this blog.