Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pledging myself to the walls...

I finally finished Where God Happens by Rowan Williams. I've been reading this book for eight months, now. It is not a particularly long book (121 pages), but it is a particularly dense book. I found myself reading a few pages and then having to put the book down to stew about it for awhile. As a matter of fact, I could really stand to read it again. There is just that much in it. It is a study of the desert mothers and fathers (I know. I'm throwing a crazy amount of links at you.) and how their teachings still apply to our world experiences today. One of things that really spoke to me about this book, is Williams's continual reference to our own self-dramas. He talks about starring in the dramas that we conduct in our heads and how this comes between us and God. so true. drama queen, here.

He breaks the book into 4 parts. But, it's the third and mostly the fourth part that have effected me so much the last couple of days. The third part is titled Fleeing:

Our Christian speaking, then arises out of "fleeing," running from what makes us feel smug and in control, what gratifies our longing for approval and respect.

What you are ultimately "running" from is your compulsions, and in the desert fathers' sense, in "fleeing" you are making a break for freedom. So it isn't a matter of trying to run away from yourself but running away to yourself, to the identity you are not allowed to recognize or nurture or grow so long as you are stuck in the habits of anxious comparison, status seeking, and chatter.

So, yeah. I got alot of this stuff going on. Especially the self-starring dramas and the chatter. Sure. sure. We know this stuff, right? It's a good reminder and maybe a bit more specific than frankly I would like. But, then the question becomes, "I know what I should flee, but then where am I supposed to stay?"

That's the fourth part Staying. Williams illustrates this teaching with the story of two monks, an elder and a brother struggling with temptation. The elder's advice was this,

"Go. Sit in your cell and give your body in pledge to the walls."

I love this.

First off, the monastic cell is not the same as a jail cell. It is a place of contemplation and deep prayer. But, it was also their "place." their reality. And this is what the elder was advising the struggling brother. To pledge himself to the reality of his life, not the unreality. not the fantasy world. not the dreaded "if onlies." If only we made more money, if only my children went to this school, if only my husband did more around the house, if only. or the equally destructive "what ifs." What if my child got cancer, what if my husband was unfaithful, what if we were hit by a tornado, what if my family was in a car accident. what if. This is not our reality. This is not the life God gave us to live. This is some "magic" world that doesn't really exist. Williams talks about committing ourselves to our real lives and our churches the way a spouse commits themselves in marriage. This does not mean you can't try to improve yourself or should give way to apathy. Absolutely not. That is not the way we commit to each other in marriage. But, we agree to live with each other and to work with each other and to be God's love in the world.

Well, all of this got me thinking about Chowder's and my situation. We've been stuck in the "if only" and "what if" mode. If only this church would do this, if only Chowder went to another church, if only we were paid more, if only. Then, we would be happy and satisfied. We always seem to be looking to move on to the next thing. The next job, the next house, the next baby. Once we have all that, then our life will start. our faith will become real. our bad habits will be lost. our ideal selves will come to the front. Perhaps, what Chowder and I really need to do is pledge ourselves to the walls around us. Work within the reality of the life God gave us. Pledge ourselves to live this life. now. And we began to talk about this possibility. this promising of ourselves. And we decided to pray and think on it and wait for God but wait for God within our walls.

I began to re-examine our budget. I decided, "Of course we don't need more money. I just need to be more intentional about what we have to spend." So, I carefully rationed out our week's worth of money. We were paid on Wednesday and by Wednesday evening everything was allocated and I was feeling quite proud of myself because I had covered our usual expenses and yet still had money for Kiva loans and to buy the kids some needed Spring clothes and shoes. I was feeling very much in control and thinking, "Yes. We just need to commit ourselves to our walls. our reality. We have alot of work to do around here. now."

Thursday morning we found this.


Jenni said...

Ohhhhh...ouch ouch ouch. I'm sorry for that discovery. But your words are so very good to read, and the wonderful thing about the truth is that it is always...true. (((HUGS))) and prayers.

shaz said...

oh no! did you find out how it happened?
things will work out, God willing, don't worry.

Cakes said...

Thanks, ladies. ahhhh the old "brick through the window" trick. It set us back about $200. We got a good deal from this guy who uses salvage glass.

Melanie said...

Oh, no!!! Glad to hear it didn't set you back too much, but I know sometimes even those "little" things can make or break the bank.

chris said...

rats! can we safely say that the brick thrower is still stick in the "what if" part of the ewquation? it's a big bummer for a newly-formed outlook to endure. blessings all around!