Whew, boy have I neglected my blog. It’s pretty amazing how easy it is to create business that pushes out things like regular journaling. I am in the process, once again, of reorganizing my life schedule, so I’m hoping to go back to documenting my life like I used to. This week has finally started the settling point from holidays, trips, and the lack of students at Murray State that tend to keep routines from developing. This definitely needs to happen periodically, but there is a comfort in good routine.
My great-grandmother’s Christmas Cactus has bloomed this year for the first time in about 7 or 8 years. It is a plant that seems to require a complicated set of occurrences to bloom, kind of like those desert wildflowers that bloom every 150 years. If I were a seasoned botanist, I might know what all you have to do to get the Christmas Cactus to bloom every year, but I am far from this skill/knowledge level. Instead, I just take the magenta blooms as some sort of good omen or blessing. Maybe my great grandmother thought of me from wherever she is out in the universe and the plant opened up. Maybe it is smiling on Allyson and I’s first year in a new place. Maybe we re-potted it and set it in a window with just the right light.
Earlier this week, I sent my first round of poems out to literary journals for publication. It will likely take them months to respond, so now I play the game of waiting and wondering if they are good enough. In the past semester, I feel like I’ve hit a new level with my poems. They are doing things I’ve never had them do before. They are expressing my thoughts in ways that seem inventive but still get across what I felt writing them. I’m excited about how I’m growing–we’ll see now if anyone else is. It’s a complicated feeling to send something out, especially the first time. I think my skin will get thicker, and this will seem more mundane and routine when I’ve done it hundreds of times, but for now I feel like I’m sending my children off to their first day of kindergarten. Here I am, having put so much of my life into them, trying to help them grow into something that will be partially me, but partially not me. Something that will say something special and unique to the world. I attached them as a file and hit submit, so now they must fend for themselves against the bullies, the strict teachers, the inevitable failure. I just hope they are strong enough to find a place they fit in.
I was visited by a Jehovah’s Witness who I’d seen once before, who asked to come in and talk about the good news with me. I kindly said that would be fine, and we talked for 30 minutes or so. I really don’t want to react to door-to-door knockers in the typical fashion. I know what they do is difficult and courageous, and I want to show them what I believe through how I treat them. I wonder what Gary must think about me. I am open about believing in God, but, as I like to do, play devil’s advocate with him a lot when I disagree in any way. He kindly points me to scripture that would seem to answer our questions, but I feel like scripture is much more complicated than just being an answer book. If it truly reflects a complex God, wouldn’t it have to be complex, layered, difficult to understand? Aren’t all the great writings in history that way? The constitution? Hamlet? Stairway to Heaven? I want to get beyond these simple “here’s what this and that says,” conversations with Gary that won’t really change him or me. I’d like to talk sometime to Gary about what he’s afraid of, what he is in love with, what keeps him believing in God enough after 75 years to go to people’s doors and talk. I wonder if we might exchange ideas rather than argue.
This reminded me of a conversation I had earlier this week with some very close friends who have decided to lose the title, “Christian,” from their religious affiliation. It’s not so much that they don’t believe in a higher power or even that they don’t admire Jesus, it’s mostly just that the church doesn’t work for them, spiritually. I get that completely. If I had not grown up in it, pursued it, and worked at a place that was sort of in the church, but on the fringes of the popular church, I probably would leave to. Let’s face it, it’s not always the most exciting thing to be a part of, sometimes it’s a big chore, and there are plenty of places to find most of good things it offers, sometimes done better. This is nothing new, the church itself knows it’s in trouble. I think the place it’s failing is that it thinks it can explain to everyone what it means and they’ll jump on board. I feel kind of stuck in the middle between the people who are still trying to explain to everyone else why they should be in church and the people who are just tired of this inefficient, often boring entity. I often don’t feel like I fit in with anyone. I want to argue with all of them. I don’t believe because of something I read in the Bible. I do still believe there is more out there that faith can offer, that we can’t find without it, though.
I remember a night when I was playing mandolin for a worship at camp. I remember this group of over 100 teenagers singing. I don’t remember what we were singing. I just remember looking out and seeing the looks on their faces. I remember that, as a group, we made such a noise that you couldn’t distinguish your own. It was loud; it was it’s own. I sang and played as loud as I could, and I began to tear up and felt my voice falter, but I couldn’t hear it–no one could. Something was happening to us and we were doing something at the same time. It had nothing to do with baptism or salvation or any other theological absolute you can throw out. We weren’t thinking of that stuff. But, we were experiencing what I’ll call God. In the end, I don’t care how you want to explain that, how it does or doesn’t lead to afterlife, or what we should do on a weekly basis to acknowledge that. In ways it can be important, but it overshadows what is really important, and what I think gets missed–that thing, whatever it is, that moves through us in moments like that. That thing that might make me feel like one thing with a group of smart-alec teens. That thing that might make my great grandmother’s Christmas Cactus bloom after 8 years. That thing that fills me full of such feeling I want to write it down on paper and make it something special. That thing that I know I’ll never understand, but that I want to follow, because it feels alive and free and wonderful. That thing I want other people to know about without feeling guilty or pressured or uncomfortable or wrong about something. Call it what you want. Don’t call it anything. I want to more of it, all the same.