Skip to main content

unplugged

It has been a pretty hum-drum past few weeks or even months. Nothing really exciting has been happening in my life, and I haven't been really happy nor really sad. Just somewhere short of a shrug. Which, if you know the dramatic flair with which I tend to jump and tumble through life, is a bit abnormal for me. I usually get REALLY animated about even the smallest things like a penny on the sidewalk or the idea of drinking a cappuccino. Maybe I am tired. Maybe my summer reading course is draining the emotional life out of me. We all have these seasons of numbness, even us drama queens. Why should I expect anything different, even in my interaction with God? I know that Jesus will not come out of the heavens every day to do an interpretive reading of the Bible for me, nor is it realistic of me to expect chills every time I pray for someone.

I was on the subway last night and as is my custom, cracked open a book. This particular evening I read about a guy who was finding himself responding callously and somewhat coldly to a person who asked him to help a girl in trouble. He wondered about his response and realised that he had been disappointed, had some issues of transference (I don't know exactly what he meant by that), and had his heart broken a few times when trying to help people in the past, so now he was careful how much he got involved.

He wrote, "...I would try to be kind, but I certainly wouldn't allow myself feelings of compassion or love for fear of becoming confused or causing confusion. Tears and empathy were certainly put away....What I didn't realize was that shutting my heart to the love of God for others affected me across the board. It unplugged part of my heart from God, from my wife, and from my children...and I didn't even notice. It also damaged my spiritual eyes. I didn't see others as God does, because I felt I mustn't. It might stir up emotion and even break my heart." [1]

Punch to the gut. I knew I was reading about myself. Yes, I had not felt strong compassion in quite a while. Yes, I have had some very disappointing relationships in the past few years where I gave a lot of myself, trying to help people and be there for them, and had my heart broken when some of them walked away. Yes, I have been very confused about what happened, not sure whether to blame others or myself. I was sure, however, that I never wanted to go through that again.

In trying to learn from the experience, I closed my heart a bit. I began to be much more careful in how I interacted with people and how much I gave my heart to them. As a result, my emotions were starting to atrophy. Unplugging one's heart does that. It numbs the ache, but it also keeps me from feeling compassion. It stymies my emotions so that they can't vibrate with a sweet response when the Spirit is moving. It makes reading the Bible dry. It renders talking to God boring. People appear uninteresting and church gatherings are a yawn. I am no longer alive to God or to others, because I am afraid to engage on an emotional level.

I don't quite know how to remove the callouses from my heart, but I want to feel again. I was made to feel. I am a person with strong emotions, and I want my heart strings to be fully responsive to the touch of God. There will be more slow, wailing, heart-wrenching notes to be sung, I am sure, but if I don't sing them, I will lack the necessary depth and breadth of range needed to hit the high notes as well. I cannot pick and choose which parts of the salvation song I will sing, because I am not the composer. But I can answer affirmatively to his question, "Will you sing?"

[1] Brad Jersak in Kissing the Leper. Abbotsford: Fresh Wind Press, 2006, 182.

This is a picture of some wildflower I found growing under my back stairs. It died a few days after I unplugged it from the earth.

Comments

Anonymous said…
These cute flowers are little perennial violets called Johnny Jump-Ups. I have them in my flower gardens, and they have given my granddaughter much delight to pick (only one or two!!) and present to grandma.

Popular posts from this blog

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…

the movement of humility

We live in a context of stratification where much of society is ordered into separate layers or castes. We are identified as upper class, middle class, or lower class. Our language reflects this up/down (superior/inferior) paradigm. We want to be at the top of the heap, climb the ladder of success, break through the glass ceiling, be king of the hill. This same kind of thinking seeps into our theology. When we talk about humility, we think mostly think in terms of lowering ourselves, willfully participating in downward mobility. This type of up/down language is certainly present in biblical texts (James 4:10 is one example), but I believe that the kind of humility we see in Jesus requires that we step outside of a strictly up/down paradigm. Instead of viewing humility as getting down low or stepping down a notch on the ladder of society, perhaps it is more helpful to think in terms of proximity and movement.

Jesuit theologian, James Keenan, notes that virtues and vices are not really…

vertical theology

Much of the thinking and writing I have been doing for the past year or so, especially in academic settings, has to do with how hierarchy is embedded in our theology and ways of structuring communities. To me, that's not a g