Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pretty Much the Whole Enchilada

So, back several days ago now I wrote a "part one" post on leadership which sorta begs for a "part two." But after I wrote the part one part I realized I didn't really feel I was capturing my gut with what I wrote. There was this elusive thing I wasn't able to turn into words. Then, I was (of all things) talking with my husband, and managed to pull out of my gut what it was I really needed to articulate. I say "of all things" like that, because for years and years I've relied on writing to be able to come to certain understandings. The ability to converse about said understandings came later.

So, that's a new and very good thing, both the understanding and how it came about. It makes me happy.

Now, though, I want to go back and wrestle it out into written words so that I can meditate on it some more, not lose anything, and integrate it into everything else which has been going on in my thoughts and my heart.

All of the complex ruminations I wrote about in my last blog lead me to one very simple truth: God is challenging me to be, fully, who I am. See, that's the problem with really profound things. They are too darn simple sounding when you put them into words. It reminds me of those effects one sees in commercials or movies or whatever where you have 20 billion tiny images, like a huge overview of a giant city in all its intricate detail, and then with a crescendo, followed by silence, it gets all sucked into one tiny focal point -- like a fiber optic cable or something.

Here it is. You know why it bugs the heck out of me to see timid worship leaders? Worship leaders who don't realize they are supposed to be heard, they are supposed to give clear, reasonably skilled direction to their congregations? Because that has been exactly my weakness, too. Except not in the area of worship leading, but in living out of my heart. Acknowledging to myself, and acting out of, what is in my own heart. The most important thing I am leading is my own life, bringing into the social setting around me the soul, the being, the person I am, the person God created me to be. And so often I have been like that *+$&%! irritating person who whispers or mumbles hymn numbers or plays her instrument so quietly that singers drown her out and everyone goes off key. And I am so encouraged by people who show they know what they are doing in leading worship because they shout to me: "Damn the lies, Marie -- LIVE!"

The message that has tormented me from a very early age is this hissing, insidious demand: shut up and go away. It infected me so deeply on so many levels, enchanting me with death in its many forms. This is simply not God's message to me.

There are many practical ways in which I am called to give clear, reasonably skilled direction in my life. Much of this is even non-verbal. Since I had this conversation with my husband I've seen almost every day the difference this revelation makes. It's hard to put into words, but I've had an interior habit of sort of shrinking out of existence when in the presence of others, to one degree or another. I used to think of it as holding my breath. When I was with other people, I would "hold my breath" until such a time as I could be alone and breathe again. It was like I felt living was a zero-sum game. That if I lived, I was causing another's death, and therefore it was selfish of me to live, and killing myself was an act of generosity. (Are you getting a feel for this diabolical message yet?) So, instead of shrinking away from life, I see that simply living, simply interacting without "holding my breath" is how I am called to "lead."

I'll give you an example. Last week a guy came to our house to diagnose our broken dishwasher. There was a time when I would have instinctively been very quiet while he was there, staying out of his way in the kitchen, and speaking to him cursorily when he was done. Not because of shyness, but because I felt it was somehow more right to be this way, more respectful, more moral. And because of habit. But this time I kept right on with the activity I was in, and talked with the man as appropriate while he worked, asking questions, sharing information, etc. In other words, I stayed alive while he was there. And the thing was, I didn't preach to the man, but I knew I was bearing witness with my life to the Truth. Even if he didn't.

I found this sort of different thing happening every day. And just like I get a deeper sense of peace from being around a competent leader, I could feel that others around me, especially the various children in my life (mine, and their friends) experienced the same peace as they got clear answers to their concerns. I saw people simply succeed more and be happier when I was clear and forthcoming about my needs, my wants, my thoughts, my intentions, and with my attention.

Contrary to the lie that my life means death to others, and therefore I can't bear to inflict it on them, the truth is that my life (which is in Christ) means life for others, and I can bless people. For decades now, the Lord has been patiently tutoring me to be myself. He has been specifically contradicting the lie that says being myself will destroy others. This has just been like a big flood-light recently.

One other related thought. I wrote this in my last post:

I once thought of, and lived out "following" as a sort of self-subjugation. That is, I had the sense that to follow meant to place myself under another's control. Usually, that control was of the nicest sort, you know, a "letting them make the rules for the game" sort of thing. But still there was this element, born probably of poor religious formation, that understood "surrender" to Christ as a kind of slavery, a sacrifice of my dignity, my very self. Lord have mercy, I attributed to God the desires of the devil himself -- my annihilation.
It occurred to me to no longer use the phrase "to surrender to God's will" but rather "to be in union with God's will." I don't propose this for anyone but myself, but to me it clarifies the problem I've had with confusing surrender with subjugation. (This, by the way, is one of the main difficulties with the spirituality of Islam -- and to a degree certain forms of Protestantism -- it proposes a relationship with God that is definitely not familial or filial, let alone spousal. To be in union with the will of God speaks to me of a surrender that is proper to lovers, in which any sense of harshness or cruelty is unspeakable.

Which leads me to yet another thought in closing, which is really a completely new starting place: It seems to me that what God has been leading me through in the last few years has been a personal, in-depth lesson in what John Paul II called the Theology of the Body.

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