We are a week away from time falling back so my feet hit the floor this morning in darkness. I slipped on my robe and walked in my rut to the kitchen, pulled one of the porcelain mugs from the middle drawer of the dishwasher because I’m partial to its thin rim with the slight curve perfect for sipping the beans roasted dark but not burned. I think about how heat changes things, makes them hard and beautiful, like the white clay that made my cup, or the bitter and sweet ground beans surrendered yet again to being scorched for the benefit of others.
Yesterday, after church I made some slaw for supper then slipped out to the porch with my books. It was the Sabbath and I was resting on the wicker couch on a golden autumn afternoon. I turned on music— movie scores and opened Mary Oliver’s new book, a collection of essays, a book titled, Upstream. It wasn’t long until I was in tears. I swallowed them, tasted their salt, accepted that swallowing tears always makes me thirsty.
It’s taken a lifetime to accept who I am rather than who I wish I was. Like so many, I thought I might be able to minimize the depraved state I am in—apart from Jesus. I think this is the deceiver’s foremost lie— that we aren’t that bad. When we believe his twist on truth, the bible says we choose disobedience, rebellion, which puts us under the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). But there is something worse than just being under God’s wrath as crazy as that sounds. To believe the twisted thought that we are bad, but not that bad, keeps us from desiring the life God has for us in Jesus. “We are half-hearted creatures,” writes C.S. Lewis in the “Weight of Glory”, “fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We ate leftover red beans and the slaw for supper. Warm banana pudding filled bowls for dessert, but the bananas weren’t ripe. They could have stood a few more days sitting on the counter coming into their own, sweeter, just before death.
Mary Oliver ponders the creative life as the third way of life, what seems to the world a reckless way of living—which she hopes it is. Reluctantly, I believe she’s onto something. The creatives gather along the edges of life, gather the chaos into something beautiful. It seems reckless to those who are ordering their lives around productivity—making the world go ‘round. It seems frivolous to be picking wildflower bouquets along the road and arranging them in a minnow bucket.
“The clock is still ticking…Every day, twelve little bins in which to order disorderly life, and even more disorderly thought.” (Mary Oliver, Upstream)
We are living in time, but living for eternity.
Ray Stedman said the third way of life is that of a Christian who is not conformed to this world. We can reject conforming to the patterns in the world, refusing to wear the clothes of the world and using its words, resist fitting in, if you will. We can reject the culture’s magnetism but backing away from the world, we Christians, with intention, are tempted to form our own tribe with its own cultural norms, its own outer garb, and to speak in a language "outsiders" can not translate easily. As a Christian and a creative, I know this tension. We live between two worlds.
“Genuine Christians belong to neither of the extremes which are always present in society. They have to contrast with both. And therefore they get attacked from both sides, if they are really standing where Christ stands. One of the indications of whether your Christianity is genuine or not is whether you do get attacked from both sides, because Christianity is a third way of life.” (www.raystedman.com, Ephesians 2:1-3, The Human Dilemma)
We are not to be creators of chaos. A Christian creative is never called to make chaos. We are called to set chaos right—to be reconcilers. This reflects the heart of the One who has called us to this third life, this vocation with eternal dividends.
To stir up the chaos, to gather it for the purpose of disseminating it, is the work of the enemy of the eternal soul. It is the kind of creative activity that fills the air, the sin-polluted air of the world’s rulers, who lust to keep the sons of man under the judgment of God’s wrath.
Living in the chaos without hope is torturous. So much of the world knows this pain well. The good news is Hope sits in the wings ready to take flight if we’ll accept and be real about our depravity---our need; if we'll receive God’s grace. Pride says don’t do it—you’ll give up your options, you’ll lose your life.
Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” (Luke 17:33)
We cannot grab hold of what will preserve our lives if we don’t let go of our desire to save ourselves— which is, of course, the biggest lie of all. We must give up our membership in the fellowship of the walking dead.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:1-6)“But God…in mercy…in love…even when we were dead…raised us up with him and seated us with him…” This is our reversal of fortunes, but I’m afraid the words have become too familiar that we scant take notice. What a shame, for they hold the “weight of glory,” our hope, seated with Christ now and for all of eternity.
A friend asked me in a text why I thought Jesus saved us? Was it because He wanted us to love him and follow him? She’s been feeling the fire, the in-between with its pain and its gifts.
My reply was simple, an attempt to reconcile the chaos: “He loved and saved us because He wanted us to be able to sit next to Him ….”
We should take him up on the offer, take our seat. It’s was costly, but it's free. I've always loved a holiday at the sea.
Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee's Community.