Saturday, November 27, 2010

An Unlikely Credo

A Conclusion to My Labyrinth

Since taking a break from graduate studies I have felt a bit like an autumn leaf caught in an eddy. The current has taken me here and there, over and under - to visit fears and futures, regrets and hopes, passions and purposes and various other landmarks of the heart.  It has been an interesting adventure, kind of like a spontaneous, open-ended road trip with God.  I never quite know where we're going or where we'll end up or what we will find along the way - but isn't that kind of what adventure is all about?  Indeed, there may be many posts yet about that journey later.  My purpose, however, in taking this break has been to stop - to stop the maniacal busyness and the achievement drivenness and, instead, to wait and listen - to seek and hear from God specifically about purpose, calling, and the good works He has set aside for and designed me to do.

Today and for the last weeks I have been hearing something specific.  It is as if the gentle voice of my spirit has been whispering something to my conscious mind.  Interestingly, as I sat down to write it out I discovered that I had already written it. I stumbled upon a draft for a blog entry from April 12th ... almost the very day I stepped away from my internship...

April 12, 2010

We interrupt this broadcast with a short blog ...

(Well, maybe not a short blog. After all, when have I ever written a short blog?  Unless it was merely to feature a quote from someone else?) 

... so, a blog, anyway, about STORY and the Importance of Story.

In fact, if you have ever happened upon my Sparrow Anthology page you have discovered a blog that abruptly and rather unceremoniously launches itself into STORY, namely, a couple of analogous serial short stories apparently about princesses, dragons, gardens, epic journeys, and people being lost at sea, that sort of thing. The significance of these stories is not that they are particularly well-written, though they can be interesting.  It is not that they were imported from another blog so that the readers there (who patiently awaited and read each chapter as it was being written) might have them all in one place to read as a story, though this is true.  It is not that they are necessarily good fiction or fantasy.  No, the signficance is that they are word pictures depicting real-life adventures, heartaches, and lessons.  They are symbols, symbols of my story, painted so that others might find something of their story in mine.

In fact, "Confessions of a Church Girl" in its own way has been an attempt to articulate just how these stories began and why they are important.  This site is one link between my life, my culture, and the mythical adventures captured in the short stories that I write.  It all started with the realization that I no longer wanted to watch others live life, but wanted to live a life worth watching - I wanted to live a life that actually tells a story - and not just any story, but the story my heart most longed to tell.

As a counselor I could tell you about the significance of story therapeutically.  It is what we use to make meaning of the events of our lives.  Story determines whether we are the good guy or the bad guy, the main character or a foil.  There are branches of psychology and paradigms of treatment utterly dedicated to story...

That was the end of the draft on April 12th. As I read these words now I realize that in my graduate studies there was a dominant story attempting to tell me who I was and what I was to do.  I found bits of my story in the midst of it, but in the end I found that my story, the story God was telling in my heart and life, and the dominant story were actually two very different things.  The story my conservative, private university was telling was not one in which I was mentored or encouraged to find God and His calling on my life at all.  The faculty took a hand-washed approach (it's not my problem, it's yours) to our formation. The new professors were fresh out of their doctorate programs, no teaching experience, very little clinical expertise, and they offered even less about or toward an encounter with God, personally or corporately.  Their wisdom, with the exception of one, came from the book chapters they had read that morning (if they had bothered to read them, which sometimes they did not).  If I saw or heard their hearts at all, the stories they were telling were dismissive, overworked, and desperate, frankly - desperate to make a bottom line.  And their bottom line was about passing a test, not about the students in their midst, not about the lives they had in their hands, but frantically pulling off whatever they thought was going to get their CACREP accreditation.

It's not a bad bottom line.  But it's not the point of my story.   In fact, it kind of flies in the face of my story, which is about relationship, people, and challenging the bottom line mentality in order to recognize, participate in, and appreciate a larger story.

Interestingly, stepping away from that insanity did not silence the voices of competing story.  In this time of rest and seeking, other dominant stories have tried to tell me who I am.  The fact is, I live and work among the rich and educated, for example.  I am poor and, at present, a graduate-school dropout. I live in a world in which one is supposed to have a full-time career and/or a family, a certain income and standards for living including a Christian paradigm of abolishing any kind of debt.  I am single and, at present, I work part time in a support role while participating in ministry to addicts and finding creative ways to pay student loans.  Imagine how these stories would define me.  Moreover, there is this culture all around me, a culture of quiet nights at home watching tv, days spent surfing the net, illicit relationships with make-believe people - a culture in which we don't really live in the real world.  This story is particularly compelling to a postmodern world that has been kicked around in real life by the stories that have come before.  This is the story of the Labyrinth.

And there among the cacophony is a simple credo ... I don't want to watch others live life. I want to live a life worth watching.  I don't want to be a spectator, a surrogate-user, a media consumer, a tv-watcher; nothing more than an audience member at a show.  I want to be someone who lives, who truly lives, in the real world that is scary and discouraging and frustrating and yet good and beautiful.  I want to live the story of my life, not someone else's, not some institution's, not some culture's - the story of my heart, the story of my God.  I want to be someone who lives in such a manner that it is inspiring, that it inspires others to want to live, too.

In the twists and turns of life we forget sometimes to live, to live our stories instead of buying into a substitute, a farce, a mirage designed to make us forget that we have a story, a life, a calling.  And it is fitting that bookending my time of intentional seeking and listening for God's story is this credo, my credo, that I must remember and challenge myself with every day.

As a side note, I have continued my studies in the Old Testament during this time and I constantly revisit the instructions the Hebrews were given in order to take their land of promise.  One of the most vital imperatives they had was to remember.  They placed stones from the Jordan after they crossed it on the banks of their new land, an altar of sorts, to remember, to tell their story, to seek God and to keep their covenant with Him.  I have decided to build my own memorial altar in the form of a book, a covenant book.  In it I will record reminders - images, scripture, articles of faith, visions, vows, promises and covenants - of my story, of the story God is telling in me, in my heart, through my life.  On one page it will read:

I don't want to watch others live life.  I want to live a life worth watching.

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