Anyone else love a good unsettling? My unsettling moments are never grand or connected to big events. They are usually the culmination of more than a few small conversations, essays, articles and thoughts that take place over a short amount of time. Each one provokes a new and powerful thought in my mind, and each one, though thematically unrelated, stacks upon the other until I stand atop a large shaky tower and begin to tumble.
Some of my tower blocks this week:
1. A childhood friend wrote about turning 36. He is six months ahead of me. He lives on the other side of the world. He writes a couple of personal essays that are laced with loneliness, no matter the topic. I don't know the reasons, but he seems to have a self imposed exile: physical (living in a foreign land), relational (single, while yearning for companionship), spiritual (leading out a small group of believers). He seems unhappy and yet feels called to be such. There is a mantle of martyrdom that he seems to wear heavily.
2. A woman bleeding her heart onto the page as she wrote about her daughter, diagnosed with several behavioural problems, who can't seem to settle herself in a church setting. The mother wrote painfully about the importance spiritually, relationally, and emotionally for her daughter to be in a church setting, and yet how hard it was to watch her daughter's loud, rude, and inappropriate outbursts towards a very patient and loving congregation. She poured out her pain and problems without offering any solutions, because she had yet to find any.
3. This quote (from the mother above): "Something that keeps coming up in these discussions is that my daughter's bad behaviour drives away the Spirit, which diminishes (or ruins) the experience for everyone else. Our daughter's behaviour is bad. It doesn't make other people feel good. But it doesn't make the Spirit flee the room because where the Spirit goes is the Spirit's business. We invite the Spirit to be with us - we're promised, after we're baptized and confirmed, the the Spirit will be our constant companion as long as we keep a place within ourselves for it to stay. My daughter may be driving the Spirit away from herself, but she doesn't have the power to banish it from the room or command it to leave other people."
4. A high school friend living in Nicaragua. I don't know why, we aren't in touch any longer (except via Facebook.) Sometime after the death of his mother it seems he fled to South America.
5. A conversation about experiencing faith in the way you need to, and how that will look different from even the person sitting next to you at church. You might hold the same doctrinal beliefs, but you also might access spiritual things in a completely different way. And that is both all right, and good. And beneficial to both you personally and the body of the church as a whole.
6. Flipping through photos of a friend who went on an educational trip in his last year of high school. Taking an entire semester in Europe, seeing the art in person and standing on historical ground and soaking up the culture first-hand.
7. Some advice to a friend that echoed back to my own heart: "If that university course is not possible, then find another way. You have this talent and training, so go get that learning and understanding. Then go out into the world and make up your own job. We are so used to the prescribed number of traditional careers (teacher, doctor, lawyer, etc.) and the traditional way of getting there. But that isn't the way any longer. You must look at yourself, your loves, your talents, and then go out there and use them in this world. If the job you want doesn't exist, create it.
8. "This vast display of stars has been held in place by the sure, strong hands of God for thousands of years, through wars, tragedies, sadness and disasters of every kind. Not one year of our history has shake the power or control of God."
8. "Be willing to be undone."
As I tumble from my little tower, I clench my fists at the overpowering emotions. On one side I see a safe little existence, exactly what might be expected of where I am now. On the other side I see adventure and the unknown laced with fear. I don't want to be at either extreme. I feel both a pull and a push toward something just beyond my comfort zone. I feel called to something different - not more, or better, or greater, just different. Something that says "don't worry about what is safe and traditional." It assures me "adventure doesn't have to be reckless, or permanent, or only 7 days every 5 years." It promises "a path carved out just for me, where you can have tradition and adventure." But it does warn "you cannot cling to what you know simply because it is familiar. To have adventure you must be willing to step out."