Monday, October 5, 2009

Love, part 2

Last I heard Jacob was going in to have his MRI done. I know it sounds small... but just considering the emotions that must be going through his and my family's head, as well as my own, there is no such thing as a little issue anymore. Little things tug on my heart, because now I can relate to the depths of sorrow that people experience.
It is quite honestly a huge challenge for me to be "out of the loop" with my family... being down at school necessitates that I at some point break with life at home and pursue my life down here. It is a huge process of "release" for me... letting go of the sorrow, the frustration, the bitterness... not to say that I don't still feel these things. But I don't allow myself to get trapped in a self-defeating cycle of internal arrogance and bitterness.
This directly applies to where I have come from. The last 5-6 years of my life have been characterized by frustration and bitterness toward the modern Christian-church institutions in which I have been raised and am still a part of. I have always known that I have been frustrated... but it has not been until recently that I have realized that I am bitter, and have only recently begun to dig this out of myself and work through it.

As a complement to this blog that I am writing, read one of my dad's post from a few days ago titled "Love." In it he says, "Loves moves through the dirt and cleans it up so that there is freedom. If love does not get dirty, nothing is cleaned." (I encourage you to read the whole post).

Closely related to this is a word that has popped up in my thoughts recently, that carries a lot of meaning with it regarding what I have been writing about: catharsis. In greek, it comes from the words meaning "cleanse" and "pure", and means "release." It is associated with the process of cleansing, of purifying, of releasing.

Am I open with who I am? Or do i enclose myself in an ivory tower of "Robert Kirkendall Christendom," where I dominate all who fall short of my mental standard and subject them to my own internal criticism and frustration? Or am I vulnerable, not just with others, but to the CATHARSIS of God? Am I opening myself up to him, being willing to be changed and transformed? Brokenness is the key in this process of catharsis. We must understand this without reverting into saying "Brokeness is God punishing us to teach us a lesson." That is not a proper understanding of what love is. If God truly loves us, then he will purify us, help us through the painful process of catharsis, of coming out of darkness and into light. God is with us every step of the way. We are not being judged by God... God's judgment and wrath was poured out onto his Son for us, on a Roman crucifix. We now can take part in the Catharsis of God, in coming out of darkness.

Catharsis is so associated with the concept of love that my dad presented. It is not gushy and kind and smiling faces... love is a determined, resolute ability to reach out a hand to people who are wallowing in the muck, to even dive into the muck after them, risking yourself. Rarely, however, do we face these drastic forms of love where we must "take a bullet for someone." As my RD said, love is exhibited in the little choices. In how we deal with pain and conflict. We can chose to be arrogant and self-seeking, or we can open ourselves, become vulnerable, and thus work through things together.

Catharsis is not an individual process. It MUST be done in community... in openess, in vulnerability. The Holy Spirit is not some vague entity who acts on behalf of individuals... he is a continual expression of the spirit of Christ, as manifested in our communities, in our interactions with those around us.

Back to Catharsis and love... there is so much hope here. A hope that says you are loved, here and now in this moment, and together we are going to work through this painful catharsis into light, out of darkness. The problem with so many religious (and otherwise) institutions and individuals is an unwillingness to SUMBIT to this Catharsis. Because, growth only occurs in brokenness. Transformation only happens when the old is torn apart so that the new may shine through. Instead, we tend to enshrine ourselves in ivory towers of our own accomplishment and intellect. It is these very constructs that must fall apart for us to grow.

I think this is the general idea that I was referencing when I though of the phrase "Journey Through Fire" for the blog. That we must be "burned," must be broken, that we may journey on and experience the love of Catharsis - a love that would tear apart in us what is unneccesary, what is anti-love, that we may grow. In this, I find so much hope - in the purifying power of love.

In St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, in Chapters 12 and 13, it appears that he is digressing on church structures. On proper institution. After a discussion on distinguishing the parts of one Body in the different spiritual practices, he prefases his discussion on love by saying:

And I will show you still a more excellent way.

Without love, he says, all else is VAIN. In fact, he goes on to list the very spiritual practices that he just mentioned as being vain without love. Prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, FAITH, beneficence, martyrdom, sacrifice. They are all empty without a love that is: patient. kind. un-envious. un-boastful. non-arrogant. non-rude. sacrificial. peaceful. truthful. A love that "bears all thing, beleives all things, hopes all things, endures all things." A love that never ends.

Everything else will pass away. Love is the only thing that will transcend this moment. Not to say that the other things are not good... but only love will stay with us. And Paul transitions back into his previous discussion by telling the reader to actively pursue love, and to merely desire the other spiritual activities.

Am I loving? Am I being love? Not a love that is nice and kind. A love that speaks truth into peoples lives, a love that sees a person's need, and does not merely stop at fulfilling that need, but shows genunine interest in the person and the desires of that person. A love that takes up another's burden with them. A love that is Incarnational - in the same way that Jesus was God-incarnate, God-become-one-of-us, so we are to become like the people whom we claim to serve.

Are we loving the people in our immediate vicinites? Are we willing to sacrifice our own worlds to serve them in theirs? I don't think that I am yet willing. What a crazy-hard calling.

Please pray for Jacob. I can just picture his anxiety before the MRI, his depression about his thumb, the stress on my parents to be with him as he has this appointment. May Jacob submit himself to the Catharsis of God, that he can see this as his process of growth, that his brokeness would cause love to only abound all the more.

-Rob (Jake's brother)


Tom Kirkendall said...

MRI went well - peace seemed to rule - despite a little confusion and lack of communication on some medication to help him relax. I really sensed that Jacob was good. After they injected the die in his joint he said it was "cool". After the MRI he said, "I am hungry." Thanks for the love. Robbie, what you wrote challenges my thinking. I was thinking today how much God's love is so "other" - different than our perception. I think you helped me to continue thinking in this direction and connect me with this thought - "though God's love is completely other, as holiness is to common, God's love is attainable, is accessable, not just to recieve but to pour out to others." We have an opportunity to connect to this love and connect others - it is the love we are continuing to receive from this Journey Through Fire Community.


Anonymous said...

I appreciated your post about the hearing deficiency and I can relate except mine is in the area of color vision. I long for the day when I can see colors as vibrantly as He designed!! One of my favorite songs is the one that talks about eventually seeing "a thousand different colors that I've never seen". I liken it to watching The Wizard of Oz for the first time when the color comes in, or seeing an HD tv program next to the standard definition one. Although I can see fine for everyday life and even for flying (which happens to be one of my greatest blessings, and a great witness about God's faithfulness as well as living under His direction through prayer) I long for the day that I can see as He planned. I believe this is according to His plan, that we should enjoy each discovery and await His future blessings with anticipation of each new day. How much more He has yet to reveal for us and how much greater He is than our earthly selves. We could sit and marvel at so many things we take for granted every day. Thank you for allowing us to go on this journey with you all. Know that we are praying for you all many times throughout each day. Thanks, Guy B.

Tim Aagard said...

"The last 5-6 years of my life have been characterized by frustration and bitterness toward the modern Christian-church institutions in which I have been raised and am still a part of. I have always known that I have been frustrated... but it has not been until recently that I have realized that I am bitter, and have only recently begun to dig this out of myself and work through it."

I have walked on this path. Anyone who is a Berean (those who test what they are told with the scripture to see if it is true - Acts 17:11) will walk this path. Institutionalized faith rejects the Berean commitment and has many nasty labels for it when a Berean touches their comfort zones. Your path through this will not be the same as mine. It must be walked in faith each step of the way, throwing off the bitterness and discouragement when the saints don't get it about the self-serving pit they are in. The love, faith, and growth that is present in institutionalized faith is often a false catharsis that rationalizes:
1. This is as good as it will get on earth... transformation out will never happen.
2. You must be arrogant and have an authority problem if you see error in the system...

I offer these thoughts:
1. Fix your heart on being an example of love and truth, rather than mere social connections and tradition. Even if this time consuming reality leaves no time to sit in a pew somewhere, God will connect you to the saints who are stuck there outside that setting because He is the great net-worker of His people that has no boundary. God has done that with you and I on multiple occasions at different locations - Out Back, Panera, etc.

2. Throw off the things that hinder and the sin that so easily entangles so you can run the race God has marked out for you... Never throw off people, just the self-centered behaviors associated with them. You are following Jesus, not people. Jesus is a wild, unpredictable path. You have seen this. Delight in it.

Sharon Shenk said...

If bitterness is allowed to take root and grow, it will eat away at your spirit like a nasty worm in an apple. Then, like the rotten apple that develops from the infiltration of the worm, the bitterness will spread to the others around you. Beware not to let it grow! Forgive those who have not been blessed yet with the vision of God's true kingdom here on earth, his mercy, his grace, his love, His truth. Be compassionate and do not hold yourself in higher esteem because God has given you a gift of his grace so that you can see what others may not be equipped to see. Always speak the truth with love. Your faith journey moves through the deep valleys, the high places, and around all the impediments as you move ever-closer to His true path for you.
Thank you, Jesus, for being our Way and revealing the Father to us.