Thursday, March 18, 2010

skyscrapers, gutters and everything in between.

From my work cube, I can see the top of the NorthWestern Mutual insurance building where the I see the silhouettes of the folks who make six and seven figures. They drive Lexus SUVs and wear monogrammed shirts. I am at ground level so I also see the homeless guys who collect used cigarette butts and smoke them down to the filters right in front of the my cube window. I see the highs and lows from my cube. As much as I hate it, sometimes my cube keeps things in perspective.

I read psalm 88 and psalm 89 this morning. These two back-to-back psalms seem like Danny Devito and Arnold Swartzenegger in the movie Twins. Scholars think they are connected but it is hard to tell by just reading them. Psalm 88 is dark and depressing. God is far off and the writer sounds almost suicidal as he proclaims, "darkness is my closest friend." Psalm 88 sounds more like a Metallica ballad than scripture. By contrast, Psalm 89 is perky and praisey. It is the Karen Carpenter of Psalms - syrupy sweet and filled to the rim with flowery phrases of deity and doctrine. Both are difficult to swallow.

My life is somewhere in between these two psalms. I want my relationship with God somewhere in the middle too, like my like my relationship with a helpful Home Depot employee, cordial, rationale, task-oriented, not too pushy but not too aloof, reasonable, unemotional. But maybe this isn't God. Maybe God doesn't want a relationship like that. Maybe he wants our highest highs and our lowest lows. Maybe he wants to broaden our experiences to encompass higher highs and lower lows - that we might be fully human. This seems to line up with what I have seen in the live of Saints.

I once read this author who thought that Christians, and specifically mystics, were prone to bouts of depression and mania. This particular author believed that people of faith - followers of God, could see the universe much more clearly than anyone else. They experienced the lowest lows and the highest highs. Believers feel the height of connection to and empowerment by God through his Holy Spirit and also the depths of darkness as they reflect on topics such as the crucifixion, hell and sin. We speak in tongues and serve in slums. Christians live on both ends of the spectrum - mania and the darkness. And we experience a greater total sum of the spectrum of life because of this. Perhaps the middle of existence is the least palpable to the mystic, the Jesus follower, because its stability is like a calm sea for the sailor - doldrums. The mystic craves the presence of God and the presence of suffering because the are usually linked - like Christ himself.

So why not live big? Why not take risks? Why not do the things that God is calling you to do? Invite the rich and poor into your home. Raise your hands into the sky in prayer. Come alongside those who suffer. Pray for a miracle. Expect transformation. Lose your lifestyle. Be more real. Get out of the spiritual doldrums and live at the poles of life where the most real things happen.

C.S. Lewis speaks of heaven as like earth only more so. Everything is heightened - experience, emotion, intellect, sensory input. Even tiny blades of grass feel like little knives in heaven because we aren't used to the intensity of reality. We've lived too long in the middle. Suffer or praise with the full intensity of heaven - with fervor as if your days were numbered. Because they are.

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