Monday, March 21, 2011

Come to the edge, he said. They said:
We are afraid. Come to the edge, he
said. They came. He pushed them,
And they flew..."
- Guillaume Apollinaire 


I've always been an adoring fan of the two principles of self preservation in relationships: independence and individualism.  In the past in this blog, I have talked about my struggle to preserve my Self, to be true to who I was.  I have talked about how I did not understand women who lost themselves to relationships with family and their spouse.  I've invested my emotional energy in developing a safety net of good girlfriends, because of perhaps some residual anger and mistrust of men from either my youth or my upbringing.
At the same time, over the past years, I've been developing a deeper understanding of God and what He wants from us. To that end, I found myself this past Sunday sitting in a pew of a church I have been regularly attending.  There was a different minister leading this week's sermon, and at first it was really hard to settle in.  I really enjoy Jim Leggett's preaching, and this new guy was a lot more high strung and animated.  I am not even sure I agree with all the things he said, but it has made me think a lot since then on the meaning of this week's message.
The basic point of the sermon was centered around Galatians 3, where Paul is arguing with the people of that area about some perceptions.  The essence of the scripture, and the sermon regarding it, is that salvation is available through grace alone, and not through good works.  Paul challenges the people to ask themselves if their righteousness originates from obedience to the Law, or to belief in the Spirit.  The concepts both Paul and this minister expanded upon are enough to chew on for a bit.  However, it was certain key phrases the minister used that caused my mind to compare what he was saying about our relationship with God to our relationships with other people.
Specifically, it was the mention of the fear of losing one's individuality as they enter deeper into a relationship with God, that this fear was a common human feeling, that crossed mental hairs with a similar thought I had been rolling around in my noggin.  This one has to do with my relationship with the one I love, and how it impacts my relationships with those fore-mentioned girlfriends that previously I depended on for my emotional security.
My friends and I talk a lot less than we used to.  Mostly this is because they are busy - they were always busy.  I was used to being the one doing most of the calling, but lately I haven't been calling as much.  I've come to depend on my man for being my best friend, the one I turn to with the daily ups and downs and examinations from every angle of each thought that comes to me.
A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with one of these girlfriends, catching up, and she, although supportive, questioned some aspects of my compatibility with my mate.  Mostly this was in regards to sort of a freedom from constraints kind of vein..  Basically, she questioned if my wild spirit could be satisfied with the subdued lifestyle of the morally upright.  I felt a bit like she was pointing out our differences as a reason it might not work, or also suggesting that in order for it to, I would have to give up some of my identity.
And yet, I see myself doing that very thing, or feel it, feel us moving from being two separate individuals into a unified One.  It is that feeling of a loss of distinction between bodies and souls, and the beginning of true intimacy, when the other starts to feel like an extension of one's physical self, and when words become less important because you already know what the other one is thinking.  It is the time in a relationship when you go from sharing in each other's individual pursuits to forming your own together.
Take, for instance, the birds.  I have always been scared of birds, particularly of being close to them, touching them, holding them.  Either they are small and fragile enough that I can hurt them, even by accident, or they are big and fierce enough to hurt me.  I had no use for birds.  This man, though, he spoke of the birds with awe, and points them out all the time, and because of him, I started to look for them.  I started to watch the sky.  And then over time, I got more curious, and more trusting, and more ambitious about it.  We got the binoculars, and the camera out, and we watch for them and try to identify them.  Then I started to find places we could go check them out at, and different ways we could interact with them, and it became like our thing that we do.  In the past month, I have held on my hand one of the heaviest birds, the Great Horned Owl, and one of the smallest, the hummingbird.  Because of his encouragement, I volunteered to hold the small birds in my hand after a bird banding, before they realized they were free and took off in flight.  This was an act of courage on my part, but I have faith that this man would not lead me into danger, and therefore when he says, go ahead, hold the bird, it will be okay, I was willing to trust that.  And I think about the vanilla sky, about jumping off the edge because I have that much trust that this love will hold me up.
And I see myself changing in this, developing, losing some of me to some of us and it's scary, so I relate to what the minister is saying about how it feels to give yourself completely to God.  He talks about how it is possible through faith to close our eyes to this fear and wholly succumb our talents to the glory of God in pursuit of this relationship, how faith the size of a mustard seed can bloom into this complete trust that God has got us covered.  It is having faith in the sanctification of sin through Christ's sacrifice and not trying to create our safety nets of good works that gets us the golden ticket in the end.  It's letting go of those wilder parts of ourselves, not because we have to be good and perfect to be with God, but because when we do, the better parts of ourselves have room to grow.
That morning on the way to church, this man of mine had dropped me and the children off at the youth building, then gone to park the car.  We agreed on our plan to meet up on our way into the church.  As I left the youth building, I was scouting around in the parking lot for him.  I did not see him, but I saw a bench in the shade under the tree in my path to the church that would be a perfect place to meet.  The only problem was, there was a man on it, a stranger.  I worried about texting my man and telling him to meet me there, I worried over sitting next to this strange man in the meanwhile, I worried that I had already passed him or that somehow we would be lost to each other.  As I neared the bench, though, I was startled and amused to realize that the man on the bench was no stranger, but this love of mine.  He was already there waiting.
And I think maybe this is what the minister was saying, what Paul was telling the Galatians.  We don't need to worry ourselves with the details on how to be exactly like God wants us, to follow the exact formula for how to be in His graces.  When we get closer, we will realize He is there already, just waiting for us to catch up.

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