“This whole process of living, dying, and then living again starts with Yahweh ‘breathing into clay’ which becomes a ‘living being’ (Genesis 2:7) called Adam (‘of the Earth’). The point is that a drama is forever set in motion between breath and what appears to be mere clay (humus = humans = adamah). Matter and spirit are forever bound together; divine and mortal forever interpenetrate and manifest one another. The Formless One forever takes on form as “Adam” (and in Jesus ‘the new Adam’), and then takes us back to the Formless One once again as each form painfully surrenders the small self that it has been for a while. “I am returning to take you with me, so that where I am you also may be” (John 14:3), says Jesus. The changing of forms is called resurrection, and the return is called ascension, although to us it just looks like death.” –Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond
“God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God.” –Ezekiel 37:5-6, MSG
A few weeks ago, I was in the hustle and bustle of moving back into the house that built me. After an incredible internship in Pensacola, I was on the mission of moving back in with the ‘rents (#20somethingsstruggles). In the packing and unpacking process, I was determined to make a place that housed my history a residence for my future (short-term ha). I wanted to make my new/old space my own. And as I was settling my things into my room, I noticed that one of my favorite Airstream decors was broken into pieces. In that moment, I think I realized the weight (good and bad) of this enormous life-decision that had just been made. The realization that with newness comes a brokenness of the old, a rebuilding of what must be broken down. A growth that is intentionally difficult.
Moving back to Hattiesburg– I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as much of a process as I’m discovering it to be. The shifting and settling of everything in life lately has felt more like a drifting than a falling-into-place. In the whirlwind of the past 3 weeks, I’ve felt more unraveled and alienated from the pieces and parts of myself that had become all-too-familiar to my daily routine. Fuzzy and far away– they were still there, but faded in an uncomfortably distant attendance, only present enough to decline participation in the everyday (if that makes any sense whatsoever). In an attempt to ward off my tendency to overthinking, I’d written it off as a product of my environment, which is undeniably all very new and overwhelming, yet at the same time familiar. New job and new career in a town that has housed so many memories, all the while surrounded with a hodgepodge of new and old friends and mentors. Basically my life currently feels like a Sunday pot-luck–old chapters meeting new ones but in the same book, adorned with shabby binding. The old pages are secure, but the new ones are failing to follow suit, struggling to stitch together without compromising their purpose. So much good, but each good piece is matched with challenge and difficulty. Like a beautiful miniature Airstream, crushed to smithereens… all for the necessity of the process. All for the necessity of resurrection.
While the monsoon of craziness rip-tiding around me has definitely contributed to what I’m speaking to, I can’t help but feel like it’s a deeper disconnect that is only uncovered when what’s visible portrays what’s not. What if this state of struggle isn’t a result of anything? Rather, what if it’s a deep-root problem, something that has only surfaced because my surroundings have unknowingly mirrored it? In other words, what I can write off and avoid has taken the form of external circumstances that I cannot ward off. That collision of internal/external states has produced an unsettling realization that there is a much bigger spiritual aspect to everything and choosing to ignore that is juvenile and immature. When awareness is compromised for comfort, we have taken gigantic steps in the wrong direction, a direction that aims away from where we all long to be.
In the stead of having a social life, I’ve become a rather avid reader of Richard Rohr. Lord help you if you share the same habits because the man says some crazy stuff, at least in light of the traditional measures I was taught in understanding and learning Scripture. Of course, nowadays, I feel like everything I hear from modern day Christianese pertaining to Scripture is that nothing means what it says. Rather, it means something entirely different… and the literal words symbolically portray something entirely different (good luck making sense of that). Regardless of whatever I believe, I enjoy listening to different perspectives and takes on intentionally dealing with the hurtles and challenges of taking religion seriously– not just for theological high-nosed debates, but in the trenches of the mundane. Not a justification or explanation for what I see and don’t understand, but a spiritual, internal realization of who God is regardless of what I see, all through the written words we are left with. And let me tell you, regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with the man, Mr. Rohr delivers. And hands out brain cramps like nobody’s business.
If you spend much time wading through the weeds of his work, you’ll come to find that the idea of the “True Self” is not a stranger to his themes. At this crux of sorts in my life, I find myself still wondering who I am really. And I have absolutely no doubt that if I’m here in 60 more years, I will still be asking that question, tried and true. But, hopefully, by then I will come to realize that my True Self is completely dependent only on my awareness of it–not it’s actual existence and presence.
“You remind me of things forgotten. You rewind me until I’m totally undone.”
Stephanie Gretzinger (see the YouTube video at the beginning of this post) sings these words in Letting Go, a beautiful song and prayer that echoes so much of what I want to say… but can’t quite do it as genuinely and fully as I’d like. Regardless, she reminds me of a theme that riddles God’s people’s history– return. Taking me back, reminding, rewinding, getting back to the basics of who we are, of what we are. Dry bones bleached by the sun. Or, even further back–dirt. Earth. Creation. A product of will. A result of choice, of sound, or voice–of breath.
We all know the Creation story recorded in Genesis. And yet, what I have never quite fathomed is the common ingredient that makes up everything that is– breath. Divine breath. God’s sound, His whisper. HIS SPIRIT. Some people say a “Bang.” I have no idea what actually happened at the very beginning of time and neither do you. But what I do know is that there is a certain dependency that we have with our Maker for life–if it weren’t for a smearing of Holy Spirit with mankind, we wouldn’t be. We would only be the dirt that we came from and return to. There would be nothing that goes deeper, goes further, that goes past death. Although we see the end of our physical life as the death of it, Rohr pushes us further, suggesting that such an end is in fact only a changing of forms by means of a powerful combination of resurrection and ascension. Both of which, only come through a formless mediator that we Christians claim to be the Holy Spirit, made manifest through Jesus Christ. The link that connects a Maker with His made… and penetrates a never-intended separation.
Look at the verse that Rohr refers to in John 14:3:
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
If you’re anything like me, you immediately think of the Revelation-like return of Jesus to Earth–trumpets, earthquakes, the whole nine-yards. But what if Rohr is on to something here. What if we’ve actually dismissed a verse that refers to a higher realization of the Holy Spirit in each of us as that “way”? What if Jesus was everything man was intended to be, perfectly connected with the breath that bred him, the Spirit that allowed him to obtain an awareness that wasn’t clouded in spite of flesh and blood…? What if the kingdom that Jesus spoke so urgently about throughout the Gospels has been inside each of us all along? (Weren’t people ex-communicated from the church at one point for saying that? :O)
The unsettling state that I’ve found in this season of life has uncovered a lack of connection with who I am called to be–the True Self, if Mr. Rohr was saying it. But really what that means is a lack of connection and link between a Father and a son. A lack of awareness of the Spirit that unites Maker with Creation. I’m not saying it’s not there– I’m saying that I have lost awareness. I have lost the sensitivity of His tunes and tweaks on me. And as soon as I lose sight of who I am through that Spirit, that calling begins to fade, grow dim, and become something I dismiss as a product of my surroundings… which, as I mentioned, is a methodology aimed entirely off-course.
I’m not sure if there is much of a point to my saying all of this, other than for personal therapy and venting. All I know is that when my daily to-do’s become about anything other than promoting awareness to a Spirit that connects all of us to each other and to our God, I’m getting away from who I really am. Because like we’re told so often without really understanding what we’re saying, we are not our own. Who we are meant to be is entirely dependent on something other than “ourselves.” Our true selves are perfectly fused with the breath of God, the Spirit that breathes dry bones into life again. The Spirit that breathes dirt into man. Without that sweet spirit smearing us with Himself, we are nothing more than dirt waiting to return to our original state. Whether we realize it or not, there is a rumbling inside of each of us bigger than we feel comfortable acknowledging… which, is probably why we don’t. We have to be broken. We have to be resurrected into a life that’s bigger than the broken. And we have to ascend into something that isn’t determined by dirt.
The older I get, the more I long to see life as a window into who God is. As if each chapter of life is simply a new room of a mansion, filled with more than I will ever have the privilege of experiencing. Whenever death does force me to call it quits on that exploration, I’d like to think the experience will not be as different. Just the walking through a new door into a new room where everything (in terms of who I am) is rewinded to its original purpose: unity between Maker and Made. I think we’d all be far better off if we didn’t wait until death to strive for that.
Because Paul’s a freaking boss and because I don’t know what else to say, I’m going to leave y’all with his words:
Good-bye, friends. Love mixed with faith be yours from God the Father and from the Master, Jesus Christ. Pure grace and nothing but grace be with all who love our Master, Jesus Christ. -Ephesians 6:23-24
Amen to that, peeps. Amen to that. Here’s to all you 20-somethings out there trying to figure life out. Hang in there. You’re in the hands of a Renovator who mends dry bones into life for a living. Don’t let life push that into a memory. He’s got this.
Entirely too caffeinated,