Recently read a great short story here’s a quote:
They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness,and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.-Ursula-Le Quin (The ones who leave Omelas)
That is a quote from a beautiful short story by Ursula Le Guin, one of my favorite writers.
The story in short order paints a vivid picture of a Utopian culture and then shows you the underside…you should read it…
I think it captures something I first caught a glimpse of in the writings of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, that longing for the far western shores that abides inside anyone who is real…
So what is real? I’ll give you another book quote:
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
This tension between becoming real, learning to love others here where things rub you and parts fall off, even when it hurts and the draw of the far off shores, the distant lands is what I think creates the true trauma of displacement…at our best, we might get a Utopian culture that is sacrificing something somewhere in the corner and we will probably either ignore it or forget it…at our worst we either shove others to the corner or will be the forgotten in the corner ourselves.
Well remember you asked for it…
You are reading this on technology the cost of which could feed several children today, kids who will not even get a crust of bread for dinner and go to sleep in pain tossed into the corner and forgotten by the time you close this page.
In another corner probably closer to your hands there are at least a dozen people struggling with some kind of abuse, be it self and substance or Empire and dysfunction…
And now the focus sharpens to becoming real and the far off shores…
Honestly it it is only because the far off shores exist that we become real, the journey towards them demands it…no one goes into the kingdom on pretense…its all honest knuckles and blood or nothing at all…Jacob knows and shows the way, we fight with God until He blesses us and then we face our fears in the morning, but we do it with a permanent limp.
I’ve learned to never trust anyone who does not limp…not because I’m suspicious, only because I know the process…something must be displaced inside of us for us to become real, it may be our strength, it may affect our walk, but without it we remain forever a supplanter unable to look God in the eye.
Displacement brings a name change.
Glass Jaw Jesus
I recently watched an Easter production that blazed through the last few days of the life of Christ culminating in his crucifixion, my seven year old grandson suggested that the play was making fun of Jesus, because it tried in the best evangelical tradition to get everything in there and not offend anyone, thus offending most who knew the real Jesus.
The thing that bothered me the most (aside from the blatant Greek/Platonic portrayal without a scent of Hebrew thinking) was how weak Jesus seemed to be…the actor constantly was gazing up to heaven with some distant unreal expression as if to say holiness meant other-worldliness…it was if Jesus passed gas we would call him a fake…but its this Jesus who never gets dirty that is the fake because he is made of plastic and glass, one strong blow to the cheek and your faith is done for, a Jesus who never gets dirty is no Savoir in my book, the things that need saving most have hit the floor and are covered in mire.
When I think of Jacob and the wrestle-mania-prayer experience he had I understand something about God that might not be obvious…He is not afraid or intimidated to fight with us, which is a rather two-edged sword when you think about it…
One of the trailing verses from my life passage says “Command ye me concerning the works of my hands-Isaiah 45:11”…its almost a taunt from the Almighty suggesting He wants a worthy opponent…He is not afraid of the dirt and muck of sweaty hand to hand with His sons and daughters, he is not a fragile God…and frankly if I was to referee the fight I would have to cry “foul” on God because He cheated…He used some kind of move to get Jacob to loosen his grip that forever impacted how Jacob would walk.
The tension between the far off lands and becoming real requires trauma, displacement it requires an honest fight in the dirt and I am finding so few willing to jump in.
I posted earlier tonite about Lone rangers, and was a bit long in tooth to describe a path that so few seem willing to take, I don’t know why we are so reticent to be original, Bill Johnson says “If you ever see who God truly made you to be you would never want to be anyone else”…that smacks of a truth so simple it is profound and yet so few of us are comfortable outside the safety of the crowd, we want to please men more than we want to be truly ourselves which is what it means to be human…we become most whole when we are most ourselves and that is what makes us real.
I have to posit something about faith right here right now, because it is not a formula, it is a reality:
You believe in your heart, confess with your mouth, and you shall have whatsoever things you saith…
Jesus is not playing games with us here, history is full of men who believed these words, acted on them and saw the elements and environment change by faith…
Heck I’ve seen it first hand from healing leukemia to watching my Mom come out of a coma five months after the Lord told me she would be healed…I never once doubted and left with a very confused doctor shaking his head thinking I was in denial because he said she would not live through the weekend…I simply asked for another opinion from a better Physician and got it.
But I don’t always get it and neither do you, not everyone gets healed some don’t and there is that wonderful trauma and displacement to deal with all over again.
Probably one of my favorite verses right now is “In hope AGAINST hope he believed”...speaking about Abraham…this verse is crazy encrypted and confusing at best but if you ever want to see what a fight of faith looks like try praying for someone to have babies when you have never had one of your own and God immediately answers your prayers FOR THEM but your own prophecy sits covered in the muck under the dust of a thousand prayers…Abe probably looked at Abimelech with disgust and walked out into the desert with a camel full of questions…
(“So Abraham prayed to God; And God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then THEY bore children-Genesis 20:17″…does it occur to you that Abraham’s wife has not had any kids of her own at this point…bitter-sweet answers, proving God is nuts…try explaining to your lover why your prayers for her are not answered but they are for other women)
It seems there are some things you get as a soldier and some things you get as a son, and the two never cross paths and God is content to let you fumble about without wisdom until in desperation you ask for it nothing wavering…for Jacob it was probably 14 years for Abraham, quite a few more…
There is this unreal tension between faith that declares in spite of a pile of failure and hope deferred making the heart sick and a real man standing up saying “to hell with hope I believe!”
So what about the kids on the heap sleeping with knotted stomachs, or the single mom crawling into bed worn out and used up fraught with worry over how she will keep the lights on tomorrow when the paycheck is paper thin like her patience? How does that apply to me as someone who wants to be a friend of God and yet longs for the far off western shores where the Elves have gone and a kingdom of peace and prosperity full of real life already exists?
This is where our faith makes us real. Its both believing against and in hope and living in the dust of our own failures but praying for the empty wombs of a hurting empire…with a faith that God answers…shut up!
Who’s your daddy?
Father Abraham looked for a city whose architect was God…and somehow I don’t think he was looking for one here…else he would not have lived in a tent, or so the verse goes…but I think he and Jacob realized that the fastest way across the wilderness to that city was becoming real, becoming who they were and not wavering in spite of the illusions of conformity that seem so comfortable, so causal so enticing…
Maybe I’m wrong, it won’t be a an unusual event for me…but when I scan the horizon of the future I cannot see much other than a few real people limping towards Jerusalem…
“Real” displaces the poison of doubt, it smacks of an aggressive faith and allows us to seek a city…but it is not without cost…both to our personal comfort and to our walk…it will make you limp but if you are willing to engage both the trauma of real and the pain of displacement living between the reality of unanswered prayers and a God who rewards faith, you might just be like those who leave Omelas…