Friday, April 24, 2009

Touchstones in Reality

This photo was taken by a friend, Andy Larsen, at the Disney Concert Hall in LA.** It seemed to me to give a metaphorical image of how our perceptions of ourselves, others, and our experiences need balanced and faithful interpreters and interpretation.

There was a person who fought, "won" and lost in a war, lost buddies, ministered to fellows having similar journeys, then suffered greater losses still: almost life (in thoughts of an ending, and then twice accidentally - not counting the long-ago war), memories, connections, part of a limb, and most frightening of all, a sense of self and identity in this world and before God. “Who am I?”

Picture yourself in the middle of this photo's disorienting scene. However, imagine that you have no exterior streets or plumb lines to balance your person, your perspective, or even the knowledge of which direction gravity is taking to keep your feet on any one surface.

There are times when our lives resemble this photographic metaphor. You don't know who tells the truth and who lies, who believes the truth and who believes the lies. The surface of a relationship, or relationships, which had seemed solid and sane suddenly curves out from underneath you and falls away. What is truth, anyway? The lying ones and the credulous ones assert their certainty over you, and you find one image of yourself impaled by a jagged edge you hadn't seen before from your vantage point. You cry out with no voice: Who am I? Why am I here? Why don't I leave this pain behind? Can I stand up, can I escape, or is it safer to crouch as if paralyzed, my back to any surface?

Losing one's sense of self is like going back to the garden, after the fall, before the mercy. Cold, naked and ashamed, a grey day, on that metallic reflective - but not truly reflecting - surface. You cannot trust the blurred "image" you see of yourself in the metal. You understand you're here - wherever "here" really is – perhaps in part due to your own choices, in part due to external forces, and you can't get your bearings. Imagining yourself covered with your own waste, you slip and fall again and again. Is this a nightmare, a hallucination, the process of dying, a real experience, part of a real experience, or all of the above? You don't know.

You have no control. You're immobilized within scene that moves with you but without your direction, volition or control.

You become aware that some persons' presences have entered your disorienting and disoriented world. One laughs incessantly, the sound bouncing back and forth across the metal surfaces that encompass you, and you don't know whether the laughter is directed at you because the surfaces change the directionality of the sound.

Yet another presence, like an angel, stoops to pick you up off the cold, metal surface, cleans you, and gently places you on cushions that both soothe and warm you. You're relieved, but you feel still out of control, as one stuck in an endless loop of the same scene. You fall back to the cold surface. The laughter continues to reverberate around you. Another presence assists the angelic one, and they pull you back up to the safety of the soft clean, warm surface. You survive, scarred, but as one continuing to question what is real, "Who am I?"

Who are the faithful ones? Who is the Body of Christ entering into your brokenness, cold, waste and shame? Who are the faithful interpreters of this distorted reality? Where are the touchstones which orient you rather than disorient you still more, leaving you more confused and ashamed?

We believe that our answer is God-with-us, God entering our world of nakedness, shame, filth and cold, through the Body of Christ then and now. The bodies of Christ are the ones not judging the contours of and events in your world as indicative of your worth or necessarily attributable to your own action. God listens and remains as you discern the how of the shapes around you, the actors and the acted upon, and then gives you back the choice of "what now?" "Go and sin no more." You step out of the endless, controlling and uncontrollable loop. You find a true orientation in the midst of the disorientation through maintaining contact with those around you who remain true and stable. Your vision becomes fixed on a horizon outside your warped world which keeps you centered and straight. You become a touchstone, too, to others who seek the True, though you know the world around each of you remains broken, warped and distorted. You point out the horizon to one another, reminding one another, steadying one another, and sharing strength.

Bodies of the Body, touchstones connected to the Rock, the caring hands when the world falls away around us, the arms that lift the injured from the ditches along the way, the parts mirroring the Perfect, the ones being known by the One Knowing, the “we are” of the “I AM.” This is who we are to one another, reconciled and reconciling, faithfully remaining in Christ Jesus.

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