Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Dance of Being

Continuing on pulling concepts from The Shack to ruminate about. . .

I was struck by the words in Chapter 14, Verbs and Other Freedoms, especially on pages 204 and 205. Sarayu (personified wisdom) is speaking and says "For something to move from death to life you must introduce something living and moving into the mix. To move from something that is only a noun to something dynamic and unpredictable, to something living and present tense, is to move from law to grace. …"

The discussion in this chapter and on these two pages captured me. Since I work daily with words, grammar and parts of speech, I loved the truth presented in terms of nouns and verbs.

Sarayu shows that when nouns are used when referring to relationships, they are rules. Rules instead of living relationships (verbs). That made me think about how much of our teaching and practice in life are responsibilities and expectations. What a wonderful thought and realization!

The discussion goes on to point out that setting priorities is not what Papa wants. He doesn't want to be at the top of the list, or even "first among a list of values."

Do you know how much of what I've believed and taught is being challenged by this chapter? Intuitively, I know this to be true, but I haven't been able to put such words to my intuition. Every time I would try, it seemed wrong.

I have grabbed on to bits and pieces at various times. When I read a few years ago that religion makes us either Pharisees or rebels, I thought YES! Pharisees think, "Look at me. I can do all that is required of me. Why can't you?" Rebels say, "I can't do any of this. Who cares? Not me."

This chapter in The Shack says much the same thing, just in a different way.

I especially liked on page 206 when Mack says, "But if you don't have expectations and responsibilities, wouldn't everything just fall apart?"

Sarayu responds, "Only if you are of the world, apart from me and under the law. Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment, and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis for identity and value. You know well what it is like not to live up to someone's expectations."

I'll conclude my synopsis with what Jesus says on page 207, "Mack, I don't want to be first among a list of values. I want to be at the center of everything. … Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life … is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being."

I love that phrase, an incredible dance of being. Who has ever described our Christian life in those terms? No one I've ever heard. But doesn't that draw you? It does me. Yes!

Am I there? Are you? I'm not. I'm far from it, but what an exciting, alluring invitation.
May I continually accept and never forget.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fortress of Lies

I want to write just a couple more blogs from quotes inside the book The Shack. 

In the chapter, A Meeting of Hearts, Papa and Mack are talking about lies. Papa says, "… Lies are one of the easiest places for survivors to run. It gives you a sense of safety, a place where you only have to depend on yourself. But it's a dark place, isn't it?"

Papa continues, "Lies are a little fortress; inside them you can feel safe and powerful. Through your little fortress of lies you try to run your life and manipulate others. But the fortress needs walls, so you build some. These are the justifications for your lies. You know, like you are doing this to protect someone you love, to keep them from feeling pain. Whatever works, just so you feel okay about the lies."

I think the lies Christians tell themselves are the lies seasoned with all the religious talk that we've learned. And the sad thing is that we really believe that we are spiritual and believing the truth.

When you pull out of religion and decide to try to walk in grace and truth, you gradually begin to see how lie-covered most of what we say and do in the name of religion really is.

I've done a moderate amount of personality studies. I was drawn to the teaching that we build our personalities as a house around us to protect and to hide ourselves from others and from really living life. My personality type is perfectionistic and analytical. That works well for my profession, but plays havoc in relationships and life. I have to work at tearing down the walls of my protection of personality and seek to live life transparently and honestly. That is tough stuff. It feels exposed and uncomfortable.

I have family and friends who have other types of personalities or walls of protection such as being a helper, or being a controller, or being fun and funny, or being smart, or others. One writer said we're like bumper cars, bumping into each other's personalities and never really getting to know each other.

This paragraph in The Shack reminded me of some of my personality studies. Most people, and I for a long time, didn't consider personalities as something that could be changed or as lies we had built up around us for safety and protection. There has been a measure of freedom since embracing that idea. Food for thought.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Judging and The Judge

Chapter 11 in The Shack is entitled Here Come Da Judge.

The two quotes preceding the chapter:
Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods. Albert Einstein
Oh my soul, be prepared to meet Him who knows how to ask questions. T.S. Eliot

As I was reading The Shack, I kept wondering how the author would have the central character, Mackenzie, get unstuck. I think this chapter is the key. What a masterful way of handling the Biblical concepts that God is love and how evil is viewed and how God judges compared with how humans judge. Masterful!

Toward the bottom of page 155 –She sat back, beaming. "You are wise in the ways of real love, Mackenzie. So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is just the skin of knowing."

To me, this really speaks to what I believe the Bible teaches, that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord, that we are born anew, i.e., that all His attributes are supernaturally given to us and the rest of our life is spent in the exciting adventure of knowing and growing in discovering all that He is and all that He has given us. Yes! I loved that phrase: it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it.

Sophia, personified wisdom, was presented incredibly. She asked questions, but they were gentle questions, not probing I'll get you to see type of questions. Mackenzie, while answering her questions, came to his own conclusions. I have friends who think that asking questions is the way to communicate. It's mine. But I am learning that there are ways to ask and there are certain questions that are really caring questions and not judging questions. Quite a difference.

Mackenzie comes to realize through Sophia's gentle persuasion that "Papa (God) has never needed evil to accomplish His good purposes. It is you humans who have embraced evil and Papa has responded with goodness."

The paragraph in the middle of page 165 is perhaps wisdom's call to us all. "Return from your independence, Mackenzie. Give up being his judge and know Papa for who he is. Then you will be able to embrace his love in the midst of your pain, instead of pushing him away with your self-centered perception of how you think the universe should be."

When Mack came to the place he realized he was judging God and thereby was acting as God when he judged others, he says on page 165, "I don't want to be a judge any more. I really do want to trust Papa. ... But I'll need help."

Sophia's response: "Now that sounds like the start of the trip home."

Is that not wisdom beyond words?!

Stop judging and trust. Know that God loves me and will never leave me. Trust Him. Let go of all the judging that shows that I think I know better and how much better I would do it. This is an unbelievable foundation on which to live my life. It is changing me daily.

I was captured by the truths set forth in this chapter and the way in which they were presented. I realized that I don't often read the Bible, pray, or communicate with God with a soft, receiving heart, but perhaps with an anxious, judging spirit. What am I doing wrong? What more do I need to do? How can I be better? I thought the spirit of Mack's meeting with Sophia overall was a great dramatization and revelation of a very different sense of a human being's interaction with God, with Papa, with wisdom.