Wednesday, November 18
Monday, September 21
Sunday, September 20
Monday, August 3
What has been your experience of the emotion of God?
Has your experience changed at over time?
This is going to answer both questions, even without design. I don’t like to think God is emotional. I don’t want to follow and mirror and worship a God that can be so swayed by fleeting and flawed, even out of control, human-like function. And then I realize how hopelessly human that response really is. This week, Jesus meets the needs of the 5000, even without them asking. He doesn’t wait for the people to become starving or desperate. He doesn’t ask for them to voice the need or the pain. He just anticipates and becomes provider. We humans call this co dependence, and we are right about that… when it’s our human efforts trying to meet needs. Because we are flawed in motive. We can’t possibly do it all, and we can’t possibly do it right. But, this same flaw doesn’t apply to Jesus. What’s misguided and weak... destructive in us, is perfected in God.
And so, are emotions the same? I only assign weakness and vanity to emotions because it’s the only form I’ve ever seen and known in myself? What if emotions are not merely human, but divine? That must mean God is emotional. And it must also mean that these emotions are totally other than ours and also completely the same. It seems the only things I'm consistently sure of, about God, are born from my understanding of the image of God in us and the work of God in creation. So, if we are created adequate, even pleasing, or perfect and are merely distorted and clouded and diluted by sin, what we posses inside is of God, created and purposeful. God must be an emotional being. For God is love. And what do we know of love but what’s affected and promoted by emotion? God is justice. What do we know of justice but what’s driven and compelled by our emotions and affections? So I think that while my own weaken state of being, often condemns emotion to the same weak state, God is not bound by that weakness.
Wednesday, July 22
Thursday, June 18
This is such a simple story. It’s not too long past, maybe 4 years ago, and I remember it each time, like the first. I worked at a church. We were a new church, not many of us. We only met at night and shared a building with an old, dying RCA congregation in Grand Rapids. The building itself was beautiful, by reasonable human estimation.
Each Sunday, I would get to church about 3pm and begin to set up and rearrange for our 6 o’clock service. Each week I took a deep breath before entering the building and I resolved not to rush, whatever got done, was good enough for that service. I never kept that promise to myself. Each week, like clockwork, I was swept up, first slowly and reluctantly then with abandon, in the tasks and unfinisheds. I would move from task to task at an honest run on most weeks as we neared service time. Each duty crossed off the list, inevitably, was replaced by two more.
Since our services were only at night, it was often dark, or at least dusk as we began, and surely as we ended our worship. But not on this Sunday. There was something changed in my spiritual geography this week. As I run up the stairs in the front, two (maybe even three, for it was nearly 6 o’clock) at a time, I absently glanced up at the stained glass window before me, a window that I never looked at, no time for it. And I was stopped heavy in my tracks in front of the display of light in the window. Had I been conscious enough to form a thought, it would have been “Why is there light in that window? Is it summer already?” The veil being lifted as it was, I was able to neither speak nor think… nor move. I stood, gazing at the muted colors of glass, and entranced by the fresh green leaves from the tree outside, clinging to the window’s edges in a perfect frame. Though the waves and colors of the glass subdued the light and everything else outside, it could not hush the leaves. No, they nearly glowed their green selves right through the glass. They were still and silent and insistent that I notice them as they seemed to force themselves not only into the building but into my spirit too.
I slowly crept up to the top of the stairs and gingerly placed my finger tips against the sillohetes of the green leaves. I felt the heat and light and depth of color behind the glass. All at once, I remembered two things. Fist, I had once again broken my weekly promise to slow down. Second, there is a reality that is other, fuller, brighter and more God, than this one that I live in. There is a God. God is here, and God is not here. Finally, I thought one word, “beauty.” And I realized that there is a veil which separates, only lightly, the world we live in and the world of angels and shining restoration. That moment I began a quest to ponder beauty. I wonder if all beauty, not things attractive or compelling, enticing or sensual, but all things truly beautiful, each view of beauty, is a glimpse behind this veil. I wonder if all the beauty that connects us emotionally to something bigger or heavier or sadder or better, or the beauty that connects us to ourselves, is a thin place, a small pinhole, or an open streaming floodgate into the world that is true reality.
Tuesday, May 26
Wednesday, April 15
Hospital Hallways and the Heart of Mourning:
I was sitting at my desk, working on the budget, when I answered my cell phone that day in January. What are the words to that song? “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.” Well, it was 4pm when the phone rang, but it was Thursday. “Rachel? Josh was in an accident. He’s not breathing or moving. They’re trying to get him to Mexico City. I don’t know what to do. Can you call everyone?” In that simple breathless conversation I had lost my friend.
He didn’t die, but almost. He didn’t disappear from my life forever, but almost. I spent the next week living in Josh and Shelly’s house, praying on the hour every hour, even through the night, making arrangements for medical intervention from state -side, parenting their two kids, keeping 130, 000 people/day updated on Josh’s situation, leading the church who was now left pastor less and trudging through the early stages of my own grief, together with my two best friends.
I flew down to Miami the next week. Josh’s new address was the University of Miami hospital, 7th Floor, transferred there out of ICU on the day I arrived. that was a long week. The warm weather in January didn't even seem to faze me. I cried once in the hallway on a phone call to my friend that week. She was living far away and I had to explain to her that Josh was in a near drowning accident, his neck was broken and he was paralyzed… forever. I got reprimanded that night for allowing Josh to see my sorrow. “That’s not what he needs right now Rachel.”
The week before I had sat with him in four meetings for the church we worked with, and every week before that for the last year was the same. The week before we were working out a schedule that would allow us to share a car in an effort to avoid repairs on another vehicle. The week before, I had dinner with Josh and Shelly and the kids three times. But this week, these two weeks, we different. I didn’t have Josh’s friendship anymore. I didn’t have his creative support for my radical ideas about church and worship. I didn’t have our intricately woven banter on philosophical musing of little consequence. I didn’t have phone calls. I didn’t have emails. I didn’t have a home to drop in to when I was feeling single and bored. This week was different.
Josh was transferred to Mary Free Bed after that week in Miami. He wanted to be nearer to home and his kids, 3 months of rehab ahead of him. I won’t ever forget the feeling in my heart and stomach the first day I came to his room in the hospital: it was the hallway, heavy and smooth, beckoning. I soon learned to park in the parking garage instead of the parking lot. The entrance there was on the level of Josh’s room. Room #322. Immediately inside the automatic sliding glass doors, the hallway began. It’s a long hallway. First the glass skywalk to the hospital building, then the brain injury rehab unit hallway, then the nurses’ station hallway, then the Spinal Cord unit. Josh’s room was on the left, two doors from the very end.
Passing through that hallway was passing through every fragment of my grief over and over a gain. And each time took a lifetime. And each time was harder than the last, until one day, it got familiar. I started to belong there, in that hallway. I started to covet my time walking through my grief. Slowly, some days, at a near run on others. I would look at myself in the reflection of the skywalk walls. Or I would focus my eyes on a single brick, almost undecipherable at the end of the hallway, in the middle of the back wall, so far away. I always felt God there. Sometimes I cried on the way down the hallway. I always remembered life and death. I always remembered love. I always felt nervous about what I would find at the end, in room #322, for I knew I would not find my friend as I knew him. Who would it be? Would we ever regain our world, in any shade or shape? No we would not. The consequences of the accident and Josh’s new life would blot out the energy and life of our little friendship. I would leave the church before Josh was even released from Mary Free Bed. I would separate my life from that family. They would move to another house, far away from the one I dropped in to so often. We would painfully try to commit to a friendship in the next year, make it work, look for the positives, remember the past, but it would not stick. I had lost.
I think God put that hallway there for me. Maybe for Shelly too. Maybe for the kids. Maybe for all the visitors to the Spinal Cord unit. But certainly for me. The end of the hallway wasn’t just that brick in the wall, it was the heart of God, and… I think, the heart of me too. The hallway was a whole life of hurt and suffering and sorrow, sometimes a river of comfort, sometimes an ambush of pain. You see, our grief is never alone. It's never only this grief at this time. It's all the losses and broken wishes of our whole lives, our whole self. All at once, resurfacing each time we lose again. I loved that hallway. I miss that hallway. I don’t think I could have gone on without it.