Thursday, May 19, 2005

The World's Got Me On A String

My freshman year of college I decided to go skydiving with a group from my dorm. Being that I was already 18, I didn't need parental consent, so I didn't tell my parents until after I had done it, which allowed them to freak out but be happy for my safety. It was actually a rather safe process. We had to go through extensive training. We spent one night watching safety videos and then an entire afternoon practicing on-site before they let us anywhere near the plane.

The kind of skydiving we did was called "static line." Basically, your ripcord is attached to the plane so that, when you're at the end of the static line, your parachute is pulled for you. A large portion of our training involved "what to do if your static line fails to pull the ripcord." Every jumper pack was equipped with a primary and a backup parachute, you know, just in case.

Due to weather conditions, our foursome didn't make it into the air that day and had to come back later, but when we did, there were so few people around we got to go up twice each, if we wanted. And, honestly, who doesn't want to jump out of a plane twice in one day?

Looking back, I can pretty much view the actual act of skydiving in four phases. First of all, you have the anticipation: riding up into the sky, huddled on the back floor of a little plane, waiting your turn. For me, this phase involved a lot of praying. "Dear God, please don't let me die." The second phase is the actual jump: the fear of stepping out into the sky and letting go of the plane. Here, there is actually too much attention being paid to the actual process and being prepared for "plan b" should the static line fail, that little attention is being paid to anything else.

Third, after the anticipation of the jump, the shock of the jump and the relieving jerk of an opening parachute, comes the wait. This is the most peaceful part of the jump, if you're not impatient. I remember sitting up in the air thinking, "wow, the world looks amazing from up here," and "wow, this is taking forever!" You can toggle left or right here, maybe do a little circle or whirly gig, but, especially for a novice such as myself, you just wait and keep your eye on the landing ground.

Finally, fourth and last, comes the landing. After the seemingly endless stint of sitting on top of the world, you have to focus in again and prepare for the quicker-than-you-ever-thought-it-would-come-at-you landing. The closer you get to the ground, the faster it comes at you and if you're good (or lucky), you'll hit the ground running. If you're not, you'll end up like me, on your hands and knees in a mound of muddy snow: twice.

Right now I feel like I'm in the third phase of this particular stage of life. I've been anticipating big things, I've mustered the courage to let go of the plane and I've felt a little tug of assurance at my back, opening to a canopy above. I'm just waiting like a kite on a string, trying to not let my impatience ruin the view and focusing on landing, hoping it doesn't come too quickly or too fiercely.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Thrown by the Unthrown

I've been thinking. I know, it's a dangerous activity, but I've engaged in it, nonetheless. I've started wondering what those famous words in John 8, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," and "go and sin no more," really meant to the woman caught in adultery. So often these passages are preached as ones of freedom. These words freed the woman from her accusers, freed her from debt, freed her from her sinful life... the only life she may have ever known.

I think these words wrecked her life. It may have been a shamble of a life, but what it was wrecked, nonetheless. I've heard it preached that the adultery was a set-up: how else could all of those godly Pharisees know where to catch such a sinful act? I've also heard that perhaps the woman wanted to get caught. Perhaps she let down her guard. Perhaps she was in such a horrible state that she didn't care who knew anymore.

I've had this feeling. You may scoff but, honestly, if no one sin is graver than another, than I can feel that anxiety, too. And I have. It's a strangling feeling. It's a feeling somewhere beyond lonely. It's isolatory. It's a deadly silence.

Even if she didn't abide by the laws of Moses, she clearly knew them. In such a saturated environment, it would be hard not to. This woman knew where her acts would lead; she knew the consequence. I think she let down her guard because she wanted to be caught. She wanted to be stoned. For her, death was the only way out.

Finally, her day out had come and she was caught. Maybe standing before Jesus wasn't as hard as we all think it might have been. Standing there in her shame. Maybe she was relieved; relieved to finally be released from her suffocating secret. Perhaps she stood there relieved that her hellish life would finally be over. She stood there awaiting the stones.

And then came those words, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," and her accusers turned slowly away. Her hopes of release slipped from their reluctant hands as her heart fell with every stoney thud to the earth. And the tears probably streamed faster and harder now, her face turning red with anger towards the man who stole her only way out.

Then Jesus looked up. He met her eyes and her fever cooled, her hands began to tremble in a way they never had before. He confessed he would not condemn her, he would give her freedom. Freedom to return not to the life she's always known, but to something else-- what she did not know. "Go and sin no more," he said.

And with those words, her hollow lifestyle shattered, revealing a tender, new child. The life she had known was over, just as she wanted, but she was not yet released. Now she had to learn everything anew. But something in those eyes both calmed and riled her soul. Just the fact that she finally felt the presence of a soul was enough to stir the butterflies in her stomach. Now she had a new skin, one delicate and pure, yet stronger than any of the surrounding stones.

Her old life was wrecked. Her whole sense of being was wrecked. The only way she could think of to get out of this world was no longer an option. And yet, Christ had given her a new way out, one she could have possibly never imagined: one difficult to comprehend even after the fact.

As a child of God, myself, one who has heard, "go and sin no more," I still have a difficult time accepting the saving power of grace. I still expect stones and lightening bolts, plagues for my misdeeds. I expect penance. I expect to do my part. Grace takes most of that away. God says, "In repentance and rest is your salvation... but you would have none of it." (Isaiah 30:15) Grace wants me to repent and then rest in it's faithfulness.

This sort of revelation wrecks my world. It takes away my control, leaving my mode of operation in a pile of rubble-- a heaping pile of uncast stones.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

But You Have Such a Youthful Spirit

This past Sunday I had lunch with a new friend. We've known each other for quite some time, but we don't really know much about each other. We've hung out in groups, but this was our first one-on-one. It was nice.

We got to learn more about each other, including ages. Since she just moved to Nashville a short number of months ago, I suppose I assumed she graduated recently. Well, you know what happens when you assume, right? yeah. What's funny, to me at least, is that she thought I was about 21 or 22-- a few years younger than herself, while I am, in actuality, a year her senior.

She was shocked. Was it my wife-beater tank and my cute little skirt? My sparkly self-tanner? (which, for the record, I would prefer to not have sparkles) No, she's seen me in more refined attire and a paler complexion. I mean, she doesn't even know about my snickerings at the President's pronunciation of the word "assume." She just thinks I have a youthful way about me. I'm ok with that.

This test is pretty right on, though. The age I act changes by a year depending on whether I answer that I watch The OC or CSI. So, the question begs to be asked: What Age Do You Act? Holla...

You Are 25 Years Old


Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Excuses, Excuses

I do my best, most creative thinking at night. Right before falling sleep, I lay in bed, my mind reeling and twisting around colorful imagery. My brain rattles off deep, intellectual essays expounding upon theological and psychological revelations. Well, perhaps not to you, but they're awfully revealing to me.

Well, they might bring you revelation, if only I posted them for you. You see, the thing is this: my words never seem to flow as well by morning's light. I know, I know, I should write them down at night so that I can then share them with you in the morning. I thought of that last night, but it seemed too much effort at the time. It really is the weirdest thing. It's like my mental word processor shuts down when I fall asleep, without saving the project on which I was working.

I have a lot of great thoughts. Thoughts about waiting. Thoughts about singleness. (those two are actually not connected) Thoughts on emptiness and echoing. Thoughts about how God takes all that away. I was just about to say, "if we let him," but it's not even about letting him, it's about realizing that he can... and has. It's funny how we lock ourselves in imaginary cages like that.

It reminds me of a quote from The Last Battle; Chronicles of Narnia, Book 7, "You see," said Aslan. "They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out."

We are all so selfish, prideful and independent that we don't see the beauty of being weak, dependent on someone else's strength-- especially when that someone else is all-powerful. I suppose all of this is to say that I realize my own god-complex more and more with each bedtime, mini-revelation. If only I could carry those lessons through the night.

Monday, May 02, 2005

What I Shouldn't Say

Does anyone know of a good exorcist? I swear I've been inhabited by the demon known as "a-12-year-old-boy's-sense-of-humor," "heh heh, heh heh" for short.

For instance, I was at a friend's house during President Bush's press conference the other night. She was on the phone. Our dear president would say something about the nation's conditions and assets and I would giggle. And did anyone notice how he pronounced "assume?" Just not right.

What's even worse is that during church yesterday our pastor was talking about prayer and faith and the such when he said something about our duty. At this point I tittered and poked my friend whispering, "he said 'doody.'"

I'm really kicking against the goads of aging hard, aren't I?

As a matter of fact, I just wrote "tittered." heh heh heh heh