Friday, July 01, 2005

Pregnant and Paralyzed...

I know I have used the "pregnancy" metaphor before. But this time, I really mean it. Not that I'm physically pregnant, but that I am emotionally and spiritually pregnant. There is something brewing in me that is struggling to be born. There are many things in me that I am patiently awaiting.

I am thinking about writing a personal commentary on the Ten Commandments. No, I'm not concerned about taking a knife and killing anyone at the moment, but is murder happening in my name? Am I neglecting to curb my tendency towards covetousness by calling it something more benign?

I am thinking about writing a more indepth analysis of our time in Spain. Why do I like life away from my home and life and country so much? What is it about anonymity and solitude and carlessness (as in, being without a car!) that I like so much?

I am thinking about writing an analogy a new friend has given me on how our lives, our hearts are like luggage - some of us pack heavy and some pack light. Some use ziploc bags to keep things separate and some just throw the bottles in with the shoes. I love my jewelry and when I travel, I keep it stored in a little box with a rubber band around it and carry it in my handbag. And I'm thinking that we all have our luggage, our baggage, and our secret compartments. What's in mine? How do I unpack it? Do I dare unpack in the company of others or only in the privacy of my personal space?

Plus there is a line of thought about the church, the big pink building I go to every Sunday morning and the church as people. Aren't we the church, folks? And if we are, why do we flock to tbe big buildings? Why do we hide inside and hope that the outsiders come to us? Why aren't we being salt and light in the world? Making a difference outside the four walls? Forget for a minute that we want people to join our club, to come to our building. What is it about my personal faith that would be appealing to someone outside of my faith? What does it mean when so many people who think of the Christian church in this country - and around the world - think of judgmental, mean-spirited, boring, un-fun people? Shouldn't I care about that image? Shouldn't I be doing something different, something that attracts others to want to be a part of this group that I have given my life over to? Isn't it time that I forgot about the group and talked about the Person that gives my life meaning? If no one new enters the building, isn't it possible that the church can still grow - if it's really and solely about relationship? Is it a reasonable goal to expect that unpacking my luggage can or should happen within the context of the church? If AA can do it, why can't we?

I'm in the middle of one of the most spirited and pointed email exchanges of my life with the same woman who gave me the luggage analogy. She too is battling with these "church/Christian/what do these terms mean" queries. I met her two weekends ago when I went with my mother to lead a women's retreat on the topic of "grace." As I prepared for the retreat, reading, writing, thinking, reflecting on times in life when I have been the recipient of grace - and when I haven't - times when I have extended grace to others - and times I haven't, I was temporarily paralyzed by the horrible line of thought and question that Philip Yancey ponders in his book, What's So Amazing about Grace. He reminds us that the Christian faith is the only one that is founded and established on grace. We as Christians ought to be overflowing fountains of grace, but unfortunately we have developed the nasty reputation of being really critical and intolerant and unmoveable in many of our stances. "WWJD" is a bracelet we wear, but a question we rarely ask or answer with Jesus' example in the forefront of our minds when the questions have anything to do with grace and forgiveness and unconditional acceptance of others. Didn't He dine with prostitutes and party-goers and diseased and poor people? Didn't He say something about turning the other cheek when we get slapped? What about me forgiving seven times seventy times? Am I doing that? What's so amazing about grace for me right now is that I am not living it out or pouring it into the lives of those I know and love nearly as much as I ought.

I'm also thinking about writing about bathroom sinks. Another thoughtful and excellent friend shared that image with me yesterday, and my mind has run with it almost non-stop ever since. (I'm up at 4:30 AM writing this. That's how busy my mind is at the moment!) What's on my sink and why? Is it that I believe the cleansing products and the makeup and the deodorant and the perfume are simply conveniences? Or do I share the world-wide belief that those things will really make or break who I am, and make the people around me notice and therefore love me more?

Plus there is always my relationship to water. I think about water all the time: wasting it while we brush our teeth and water our lawns, boiling it for tea and rice, using it for doing laundry and the dishes and washing the car. Some days we pray for rain, but most days we pray that it won't rain. How are we all in need of water for washing our bodies, our hearts, and our souls? Why is water so crucially important but so blatantly taken for granted?

Plus there is the new Anne Lamott book (Plan B: More Thoughts on Faith) that has blown the doors off my neat definitions of faith and politics and peace and motherhood and whether or not I should force my children to go to church and aging and how I feel about my body and my hair. Plus all the complications of being a daughter come up. Plus she's no more in love with W. than I am. And there's a Jesuit priest thrown into the mix. And that's just the first three or four chapters.

So there you have it. I am pregnant with thousands of questions, but also paralyzed. I have so many questions and dreams and things I want to develop that I don't know where to begin. I realize that I need to take the questions one at a time and answer each one. Or maybe I don't answer any of them. Maybe I just pose more questions. Maybe I need to learn to live with the questions and wait for the answers to come in their own time. Maybe it's time for me to stop pretending that I have the answers. I'm a seeker. I'm still on the journey. I'm just finding my wings and taking flight on this journey.

I am saying all that to say this: I haven't abandoned the blog. In fact, the opposite is true. I cannot stop thinking about the blog. What I have to do, and what I expect to do more and more of in the coming weeks, is stop thinking and get back to writing. One day at a time. One topic at a time. Not trying to imagine what the responses will be. Maybe I need to decide once and for all that individual responses don't matter. What matters is that people think. That people ask their own sets of questions. That people are stirred up. My heart and mind are certainly being stirred and shaken in truly profound ways right now by all of the above and so much more, so why shouldn't I share that?

I hope somebody is sleeping right now. I'm not.
But I'd better go try and get some sleep...
Grace and peace, Gail

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