Monday, April 26, 2010

Trying to Follow

A misty rain veiled the city this evening. A spring rain. A running rain.

I couldn't resist.

All the tension of waiting all day for the call that hasn't come. All the questions I've been asking that haven't seemed answered. All the frustration of waiting and silence drained through the soles of my running shoes.

"Howdy, mum! Off for your run?"

"Yessir! It's beautiful!"

He laughed from his porch. Laugh as big as his white smile in stunning contrast to his skin.

"Sorry." He returned to his phone conversation. "Dat was my neighbor. I tol' you about my neighbors, Clair and Anna? She's their sister."

I smiled as I ran on. Because I am proud to be his neighbor. Because I've never been able to convince the whole block I'm not related to Clairs'... and because I love belonging to the "family" that does make me their "sister".

Reverently through the paths of bejeweled trees and flowers of the park, stopping to kiss a dogwood bloom. The cross-shaped white blooms with rusty edges and rough-crowned centers. The azalea bush an unspeakable hue, rain-dropped and lit by a watery sun. The persimmon tree's new baby leaves.

On down to the river, with its river-otter mudslides and my favorite tree, all newly green.

Back to the road, for the pure joy of running. Of feeling more alive than I had all day, hunched over a computer.


All the hopes, frustrations, dreams, and fears of late solidified into a question a friend asked me once. "What do you want to be the sum of your life?"

My answer came back to me: "I want a lot of people to know they are loved."

I want to run with that news, to follow the trail left by the greatest Lover... to glory in the immensity of His wake. I want to teach others to run... for the sheer joy of it.

It's too big for me. I can't master the pace. About the time I think I do, I take my eyes off my feet and see I'm far behind. I don't have this loving this down pat. I am less and less confident in my ability to do it myself, much less teach others.

At the end of my street, I waved to a lady I often see as I drive by but never have talked to. She yelled something about diabetes, and I crossed the street to talk to her. How lonely does one have to be to tell one's complete medical history to a complete stranger? When I made my leave, she said, "Thanks for talking to me!" I thanked her as well, and felt my face as lit as hers. In her lined and toothless face, her waist-length iron and white hair, her wide, faded blue eyes, I saw Jesus.

I've been asking Him to teach me to follow, to teach me to love. Begging Him to show His face. He did. In the beauty of people, in the beauty of nature. I saw Him.

And now I'm wondering if making disciples is as much about being taught as it is about teaching... receiving as much as giving.

A quote by Shane Hipps in "Flickering Pixels" has been niggling the interior of my cranium since I read it. "We are called to make disciples, not believers."

Good thing, too. Because the I've found the whole "making believers" thing to be a fine line between ethnocentric bigotry and total irrelevancy.

In the left-brained, logical, sequential thinking formed by the written culture following the printing press, Christianity became a set of doctrines to be embraced mentally. Hence, fundamental evangelical churches. Fulfilling the Great Commission involved dispersing written words.

Now? Who cares what you think in your head? With the advent of technology, our thinking patterns are reverting back to the visual, right-brained mode. Somewhat similar to the culture in which the stories of Scripture were told both verbally and through stained-glass windows and paintings, it's less important to us (culturally speaking) if someone believes in predestination or believes in hell. It's irrelevant to now, to today's triumph and tragedy. Trying to argue someone into the Kingdom is like "trying to nail jello to a wall" (S.H.). It seems as though the only way we, as followers of Jesus, are able to tell the Good News is by getting involved and getting dirty. Loving.

I'm glad. Because, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's what Jesus was trying to show us how to live the whole time He was here.

So before this post evolves into a full-fledged book review (which would hardly be coherent due to the hour), I'd like to thank all of you for reading the mosaic that is my blog. I keep meeting people I barely know who tell me they read this site. Your telling me that my writing encourages you humbles and blesses me. I'd like to hear from some of you, either by commenting on this page, emailing, or, better yet, telling me in person (if possible)... where have you seen Jesus? How is He teaching you to love? I'd love to hear it because I have an astonishing amount to learn.

Peace always...


Carla said...

"cross shaped white blooms" I never noticed the shape.

Becca said...

My mom used to have a plaque bearing "The Legend of the Dogwood":

An old and beautiful legend has it that, at the time of the crucifixion, the dogwood was comparable in size to the oak tree and other monarchs of the forest. Because of its firmness and strength it was selected as the timber for the cross, but to be put to such a cruel use greatly distressed the tree. Sensing this, the crucified Jesus in his gentle pity for the sorrow and suffering of all said to it: "Because of your sorrow and pity for My sufferings, never again will the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a gibbet. Henceforth it will be slender, bent and twisted and its blossoms will be in the form of a cross -- two long and two short petals. In the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints -- brown with rust and stained with red -- and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see this will remember.

It's rather sentimental, but I like it anyway. :)