The Speckled Mind

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Exposing Mythology Part 2: The Ideal Person

Who is it?

You know...the person you've been waiting for--who is it?

Where is that person? When are they getting here?

You know exactly what you'll do when they arrive. After all, you've spent years developing your theology--how to think about, how to love and how to care for him/her when they finally show up.

But are they ever going to get here?

Does that person even exist?

This is an excerpt from what has become an ongoing conversation with myself. The 'person' I am referring to, of course, doesn't exist. Oh, I will probably still be waiting around for him/her to show up--and I'll be ready when they do. But that person is a myth.

At this point you may be wondering what on earth I am talking about. Let me give you a few examples and descriptions of the ideal person(s) for whom I have waited, am waiting and will continue to wait:

The ideal homeless person: He shows up at a time when I have nothing better to do than help him with his problems. Fortunately for me he is kind, semi-clean looking, doesn't smell of body odor and doesn't have awkward social habits that make him uncomfortable to be around. What's even better about him is that his problems are easy to solve. All he needs is five dollars, and I have empirical proof that he will use it for bus fare. I give him the money, and he gives me a quick embrace--which I rather enjoy because he smells like soap, shampoo and lightly-fragranced moisturizer. Within two minutes of meeting him, he is on his way to the bus station. After he steps off the bus, he will get a job, rent an apartment and begin living a life that contributes to society--did I mention I have empirical proof for all of these things?

The ideal friend in crisis: This guy has had real problems lately. But, fortunately for him, he ran across my path today. In a matter of minutes, he describes an easily solvable problem. All I really have to do is give him a bit of the wisdom I have been storing up for this occasion. The situation isn't messy at all. I hardly even have to pay attention to solve the problem. He leaves--incredibly grateful for my wisdom, vowing to pay me back at a later date.

The ideal friend in sin: He is living in a way that is profoundly harmful to himself and others. Lucky for him, I enjoy confrontation--I don't even have to pray about it. There is nothing else on my calendar, so I go to his house and explain the error of his ways. He immediately affirms the factuality of what I've what I've noticed in his life. In a not-too-emotional kind of way, he quickly repents of the error of his ways and begins to live differently. He never again is tempted by the same sin and credits me with changing his life. The great part is that it only took ten minutes out of my day.

You get the idea. I'm sure everyone has people like these for whom they have been waiting. Today, we can be free to stop waiting--the ideal person is a myth. You are more likely to find a unicorn in your backyard than any of the three people I described above.

The world is full of messy people. When I say that, I don't mean that you can find a messy person in just about any city. I mean is that everyone is messy. Everyone. There are no people that escape the debilitating effects of the fall, much less its practical consequences. So what will I find if there are no ideal people?

The person in front of me. The person in front of you. At the Starbucks, in the grocery store, at church/school/work. Those people are real, and they need all of us to love as Jesus did regardless of the personal cost. Today I vow to stop looking for the unicorn in my backyard.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Exposing Mythology Part 1: Arriving

My high school band director was a sarcastic and cynical man. I loved him for that. The routine of high school band often caused us to take (long) trips on uncomfortable yellow buses, and the comedy routine was almost always the same en route. It would go something like this:

Student: Mr. Larson, are we there yet?! (As bus speeds along the freeway at 65 mph)

Mr. Larson: Yes, get out.

It made me laugh every time.


Lately I've been guilty of an unhealthy focus on the future. "What will I be doing when I'm finally done with this?" What does God have for me out there? What will life be like at that point? Will I be well known? Will I be esteemed? What opportunities will there be?

Perhaps some of you have found yourself asking some of the same questions. They all operate under the presupposition that what I am doing now is somewhat ancillary--the goal is what's important. When I finally arrive, then I will be affirmed, respected and valued. The things that I do now are only stepping stones. The relationships I am forming are likely temporary. Once I get there things will be as they should. That will be the important thing. Once I get there, I will begin really living my life.

All of that, of course, is garbage. Not only is it a false understanding of reality, it negatively affects all aspects of the life I'm living now. What a terribly self-centered and fatalistic way to live.

After all, there really is no there. What seems like there, will always be here, because when I get there--it will still be here from that perspective and at that time. Or said much more simply, I cannot really arrive. There is no future event where I will feel like everything is firmly established and I can begin my life. Arrival is a myth--I'm calling it out. As much as the word 'journey' has been co-opted lately, I think it works. On a journey, everything along the way is of crucial importance--I need to begin viewing my life as such.

Thus, this morning's conversation with God went something like this:

Tim: God, am I there yet?! (As life speeds along at 100 mph)

God: Yes, get out.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Exposing Mythology: Introduction

Everyone has a story from which they live their lives. You may not think so, but you do. By story I mean that there are certain presuppositions that influence the way we live our lives. I am a male, I am a Christian, I am married, I can't see without contacts or glasses. I lose my breath from climbing the stairs, though I used to be able to play outside all day without affect. All of these things contribute to the overall picture of reality in which I associate with others and deal with myself.

The idea of story has been really helpful to me on a lot of levels, but that is only somewhat related to what I wanted to post about. The main thing that's been on my mind lately is this:

What if there are aspects of the story from which I live that are completely mythological?

Here I mean mythology in the purest sense (not C.S. Lewis' version of it) meaning complete fiction. An expectation, if you will, of something that has no real basis in objective reality--akin to having Harry Potter show up in the Lord of the Rings. It just wouldn't happen.

It profoundly disturbs me when I realize one of these myths has been given free reign to ape reality in my life. Whenever this happens, I need to just call it for what it is, dismiss the fiction and begin living from truth.

Thus begins what I hope will be a continuing series on this blog called "Exposing Mythology." I will expose myths because I am tired of living by them. I hope this will also create opportunities for others to share parts of their own stories that have given way to mythology.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Something Has Been Nagging Me...

A couple of posts ago, I sang the praises of Rob Bell. And just to clarify, I still really like Rob. I think Mars Hill's ministry is doing some terrific things. Their outreach to the poor, commitment to serving the oppressed here and abroad and passion for achieving Biblical community is beyond admirable. I will never be one of those Christians who cries heresy if a ministry doesn't fit the 'everyone else does it this way' mold. I consider this to be healthy diversity within the body of Christ.

But, as my title suggests, something has been nagging me lately. I've been listening to Rob's sermons faithfully for almost a year now. Recently it struck me--where is Paul?

Rob does an excellent job of bringing the gospels to light. His work on Jesus, both in his sermons and in his book, brings the first century to light in a way I've heard from few other preachers. He eloquently describes the Old Testament law, prophets and poets. But, at the risk of sounding redundant, WHERE IS PAUL?

At first, I thought I was just over-reacting to this issue. But then, as I thought back to my readings of Brian McLaren's books, I began to get more concerned. I've seen a similar silence from the Pauline corpus in McLaren's writings. Why is this? What is the problem with Paul? If we are going to do good Biblical theology, doesn't that require us to do business with Paul? Are the Emergent types just afraid of what Paul has to say?

These are the questions I have been kicking around lately I've seen some conservatives go so far in their critique as to say the Emergents can turn Jesus into nothing more than a teacher of morality and social justice, but Paul is avoided because his writings make it impossible.

I don't know if I want to go a whole lot deeper on this issue yet. Those of you who've read McLaren or Rob Bell--what do you think?


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Identical or Fraternal?

They play TONIGHT. That's right, your Minnesota Twins open the season this evening at 6:15 against the Blue Jays. And now, a short list of reasons why I am hopeful that this season will end with the Twins in the playoffs:

1. Pitching Staff: Johann Santana is the best starter in the game, and Joe Nathan is amongst the best closers. Pitching has never been the problem for the Twins, and this year looks to be much the same--consistent starting pitching, with solid relief and an untouchable closer.

2. Young Talent: Jason Kubel is back this year from his knee injury. He posted impressive numbers in the preseason. Justin Morneau is also looking like a much better player than he was last year. Joe Mauer is the definition of consistency. I look for him to bat .300+ with 20 homers this season.

3. Something to Play For: Last night, our legislators took the first step toward showing the Twins a bit of support. I'll keep my fingers crossed as the proposal goes to the senate taxes committee.

I mean, sure there are some unknowns at this point. Will Tony Batista hit home runs or strike out with more frequency? Will Torii Hunter return to his All Star status as a hitter and not just a fielder? Will the Twins actually score some runs this year? I think so. I hope so.

The great part about baseball is that it is a marathon, not a sprint. I'm in it for the long haul. I hope you are too.