Tuesday, January 4, 2011

standing still

I am currently finishing up a book called “The Poisonwood Bible” about a family of missionaries in The Congo in the 1960’s. The father figure is fairly horrible in the book. In my mind at least he is pretty much everything that is wrong with stereotypical Christian missionaries: completely culturally insensitive, unwilling to listen to those around him, and a horrible father and husband. The mother character is a pushover and lives a rather horrible life, but then has a moment of bravery and leaves her husband when her youngest daughter dies. She has a moment (sort of her spiritual climax) that really struck me. She says: “I finally moved, and he stood still. His kind will always lose in the end. I know this, and now I know why. Whether it’s wife or nation they occupy, their mistake is always the same: they stand still, and their stake moves underneath them.” She goes on to say that “to live is to be marked. To live is to change and acquire the words of a story, because that is the only celebration we mortals can actually know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I’ve only found sorrow.”

I have thought a bit about this the last few days, and I think the mother character is on to something. Standing still in life seems to make you irrelevant and ridiculous very quickly. I feel like I am barely standing in the middle of a torrent of movement in my own life, this season seems filled to the brim with change and the unknown and questions about purpose for myself and my friends. Sometimes I wish I could just stand still and have my life “how it used to be.”

But I can’t.

And when I am truly honest with myself, I don’t want to. I want to engage the inundation of ideas my friends and I are confronted with on a daily basis. I want to bravely venture ahead, moving, into a story that becomes distinctly my own. And I want to say that I was always moving. Not fleeing from something, or hiding in busyness, but engaging in the world around me and being willing to change. That is my hope today for my friends and I of different faiths: that we maintain our vibrant uniqueness that makes us each who we are, but that we risk failure and embarrassment to have relationships with each other regardless of the fallout. I think the only other choice is to become like the father character in the book, preaching to an empty church, because no one thinks you have anything to say.

Am I right? Or am I crazy?

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