Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Getting Over It.

I'm happier today. I've been having a rotten week. Rotten enough that some kid who didn't even know me on campus stopped me and was like: "Are you okay? You look so sad!" That was sort of embarassing. I don't usually wear my emotions on my sleeve like that. Damn Jasmin! I blame her.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Race Metaphors are Highly Overrated.

I've had an emotional week, sort of. Sort of a nostalgic week. I was looking on MySpace for folks I went to high school with and it brought back a lot of memories, happy and rotten alike. It made me think a lot about the person I've become since high school. There's no arguing that I've changed. I guess most of us have.

I used to only like myself out of pure bravado. I only said anything nice about myself when I was defending myself or my actions. It's a problem when your only sense of self-confidence stems from your sense of self-preservation. It's not a happy way to live because it means that the only time you're okay with yourself is when you're under attack. You're never okay when you're with the people you love, or when you're by yourself. And that means that you're always subconsciously seeking out conflict, just for a way to feel okay about who you are.

For example, my clothing in high school. I dressed quasi-goth. Not so goth that I pleased the goths, dark enough that I made everybody else uncomfortable. I didn't want to be one of those people; I didn't want to be one of "any" of those people. I didn't want a group. I wanted to be an individual. So my sloppiness pissed off my parents. My darkness pissed off the preps. My unwillingness to descend into a puddle of sadness, misery and marijuana pissed off the goths. And I liked it that way. Because if you said anything about my clothes, well that just showed what a judgmental bastard you were.

Christians, you claimed to love me, and yet you made nasty remarks about my clothes. Man looks on the appearance, you know, and only God looks on the heart. Non-Christians, you claim to be non-judgmental. You say that you love everybody. But you don't love me. You don't love me unless I'm passed out in a corner somewhere, so that means that you don't accept me for who I am. Teachers claim to only consider intelligence, but I'm smart as hell and you don't like me. Etcetera, ad infinitum.

When I was younger, I was always pleased when someone attacked me. It gave me a reason to defend myself. I felt like shit almost all the time about myself. But if you pointed out that I dressed funny, you gave me just enough sense of self-preservation that I could tell you how wonderfully right I was and how unspeakably, self-righteously and hypocritically wrong you were.

Jasmin has had jury duty this week. We were talking today about how she would have made a good defense attorney. She really would have. And I would have too. Only, I don't think it would have been good for my soul.

Until very, very recently in my life, I had never lost an argument. In fact, there's a proud part of me that wants to report that I've never lost an argument at all. It might actually be more accurate to say that. But more and more I've learned to restrain the part of me that needs to be right. Increasingly, I've learned to swallow the part of me that is right and knows it's right and wants everybody else to know that it's right, too.

We were laughing over lunch about the time that I single handedly shut down the anti-war movement on campus. It wasn't really any great accomplishment, since it was just a tiny meeting at our tiny student union. But for all my shyness and backwardness, there was no doubt at the end of the day that I had clinched the swing vote and the undecideds. I'm funny like that.

Jasmin was saying that my body language changes when I argue. She says it's funny to watch me because it's pretty much the only time I sit up straight and seek out eye contact. She says my nose goes up like I'm some sort of snot and I smile, because I'm enjoying it so much. God, she's right. I do well in an argument. My brain is wired in such a way that I naturally deconstruct any argument and crush its weak points without even having to think about the fact that I'm doing it. And when I'm done, I'm happy. Because I won.

Only, winning really isn't everything. I'm a horrible winner and I always have been. They say it's lonely at the top, and truthfully, I don't like it there. The part of my personality that wins at all costs sits very poorly with the side of me that has way too much sympathy for the devil.

The truth is, God has given me just enough grace to realize that being right and being seen as right are different things. Our Lord, born into the humblest of circumstances, by standards both human and divine, died a humiliating and painful death to save a people who mocked him, rejected him, used him for his power and ultimately abandoned him. And he never uttered a single complaint about it. He asked only that we love Him, and that we love each other.

Truly, I believe in that. And if I fail to live up to it sometimes, I know I'm in good company. I am thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. Forgiving people who've wronged me, and being forgiven by those (hard as it is for me to admit that I've ever done such a thing) have wronged.

There's only one kind of winning in life that matters. And that's a non-competitive race. In the meantime, we need to work more on helping our brothers when they fall. And on allowing ourselves to be raised up by them when we ourselves fall.

It's hard for an old hermit such as myself to admit it. But community is our lifeblood. God created us in such a fashion that we need each other. Whether we like it or not, we are part of one another. We are the body of Christ. We can work together, or we can fall.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Along the Path.

Sin is a strange thing. It's so much easier to lie than tell the truth. It's so hard to expose one's own shame. Even to the family; even to the friends.

The persistence of sin in the Christian is a bizarre duality. We know that God will punish the sinner. We believe that that which is hidden shall be exposed. We have felt God's awesome power and are motivated to continue on in an otherwise meaningless existence by the knowledge that He is interested in us, that He is guiding our steps, and that He wills that we should continue even if it is against our will to do so.

And yet we lie. We who have known the presence of God willingly step out of it. Because we are ashamed. Because we do not trust our brothers and sisters to forgive us; to help us back up. Pride is an ugly thing. And when pride mingles with desperation and the fear of loneliness, sin arises.

C.S. Lewis wrote that within every man there is a great saint or an unimaginable demon and that each day, we are helping everyone we meet along on their journey to one of those destinations. If we Christians were true Christians, we could be trusted to help our brothers become saints.

How is it then that the world is filled with such darkness?