The past is a cloud. A memory. A collection of thoughts and ideas as immaterially vast as it is materially insubstantial. An eternal memorial whose sole purpose is to help me live in the present. It is NOT a place I should live or even can live. For who can live in the sky?
My past permeates the heavens, looking down to inform my present; but it is not my present. In the same way my reflection on my experience, is not my experience: it is a reflection.
The “great cloud of witnesses” in the Book of Hebrews is a list of great and awful acts of faith from the past. It is both my personal and collective cloud. An "I" cloud. A storehouse. Not a dead and dusty one. No, it is a living storehouse on whose contents I may gaze and to whose clamor I may listen. But only if I lift my eyes and listen honestly, with the proper attitude--with my feet firmly on the ground of today--does this great cloud of yesterday look down and proclaim, judging each act of my faith. It floats above my ever-present life praising and condemning. This cloud is a thriving witness of my life—not the other way around. I am not to drift upwards and away, bearing witness to yesterday's artifacts while turning my back on today. Otherwise my vast and light cloud condenses and ossifies. Then I become trapped in my cloud-turned-sarcophagus; and together we plunge into the sea.
I am not the past. I am alive.
The most damnable condemnation handed down to me by this immense shouting, screaming, bloody, struggling, joyously cheering cloud of witnesses from the past was this:
That I failed to recognize my present.
I was the brood of vipers to whom Jesus proclaimed: “The Ninevites will condemn this generation!" Jesus stood directly in front of me; but I could not see him.
To live in the past, to be defined by the past, was to become stuck and stagnant—to become memorialized. It was to become incased in stone, instead of contemplating the terrible and marvelous monuments of the past while shouldering the cross in the present.
But miraculously I, a being completely paralyzed in the past, was able to shoulder my mat and walk home. A miracle of strength only made possible by the Forgiveness of Jesus. The man-child fish who swam to the bottom of my soul and set me free.
Crime is not a disease although it is treated as such. Like a patient with a disease, the criminal afflicted with crime is held in a sterilized environment waiting for remission or relapse; passively accepting life as a prisoner, asking the arbitrary and unanswerable question, "How much longer?" But crime is not passive and is not cured with passive measures. Behind it all is an active choice whose only cure is an active choice.
So what about a weak, lukewarm, anxious, unheroic life that never hits a bullseye (in short: a life of sin)?
This also is an active choice. It is not passive.
This is also a crime.
To be a mediocre Christian is impossible. It simply means to be a mediocre person. To live (or die) like a patient resigned to his distant fate--a mere innocent victim with a diagnosis of original sin waiting for its cure--is the sin. It is the choice to passively sit by as the disease takes its toll; choosing to live one's entire life in hospice because there is nothing else to do except wait. "Look, maybe I am in remission for awhile! Oh no, of course not, I have relapsed! The cure is not here and first, but out there and last! Well, at least I have a disease to blame it on!"
No! to be a sinner "neither hot nor cold" is not nearly as tepid and passive as it sounds. It is an active and thriving participation in the most heinous crime of all: the murder of LIFE. To live out a grayish mediocrity before the red blood and flowing water of Christ on the cross is a hatred of life. It is an act of violence against goodness, truth, and beauty--a choice to live opposite: to live in bland, dull, fearful clinginess.
A million tiny willful violations slowly accumulate into a life of empty insanity. And it takes a counterbalanced choice--a violent choice-- worth a million insanities to jump out of it:
It is Jonah's violent leap into the stormy sea that cures its rage and saves the foundering ship. It is Christ's headlong flight into the torrential furnace of Old Jerusalem and down the gullets of beasts that snuffs out fires in three days. It is always a singular act of volition, in bright opposition to all “common sense,” that everything terrible with a mouth regrets devouring. It quells and sickens the heart-fires of Old Jerusalems, Old Covenants, and Old Kings. It is then the irrevocable happens--from the depths comes a distant song:
“I lift my eyes to the hills.”
The earth lurches.
The Old Men, The Beasts, and The She-dragons have no choice but to hurl the new born back to shore.
New Jerusalem is here.
“One day” it seemed my whole world was resentment, bitterness and contempt. That is to be in exile. That is the moment when suddenly you wake up to the fact that you are on a raging sea and the the captain of your ship says that it’s going down. You have been sailing away as quickly and as far as possible from your assigned task, anywhere but your destiny, and all of “what you should have been.” The lots are cast; and it turns out: fate is against you.
Whose fault is it, this storm, this foundering ship? It is the one who stopped listening—stopped paying attention to the wind. The one who knew what he was supposed to do and didn’t.
That person has to go. It’s the only way. That person must be tossed overboard.
And God provides a fish. A big fish. And down to the bottom you go.
Don’t be angry.
It’s not right to be angry.
It’s just how it is.
The one who needs redemption is also the one with the task to redeem.
The one who needs healing is also the one with the task to heal.
The one who is hungry is tasked to feed.
The one who is dying is tasked to save.