He took everything away from me—all the obstructions, all the accretions, all the cataracts and clothes and scales-- everything but the truth. And revealing it; raising it high enough even for me to see, I finally seeI am hanging naked on a cross. The place I have always been.
The sight explaining so much: explaining the ache in my hands and feet; explaining the stretching rack in my shoulders; explaining the piercing in my chest; explaining the tired collapse of my unbroken bones; explaining the bitter aftertaste of every drink; explaining everything and everything and everything.
And I cry with relief, “It is finished!"
I am ready to go home. I am ready to be free. I am ready to let go of this cursed tree and leap into the air. And if ever again I land, I will land in a new life. I will love this world like Christ. I will walk through the petrified forest of crosses shouldering my own as I go. I will lay my hand on every bloody trunk. I will set up my cross and willingly scale to the top. I will hang there again, yet this time helping thieves see and understand and live. Thank you Father for letting me see the whole world!
"Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
What is the enjoyment of life? Where is it? Is it possible to see it and find it? Is it possible to find it today—suddenly—like suddenly finding you're in the middle of your own surprise birthday party? Is it possible joy is hiding right at this very moment, around the corner, breathlessly waiting for you—the guest of honor— to walk in and turn on the lights?
Shannon saw life in a different way. And this is key. All who came into contact with her looked and listened because a different way of seeing life is a different way of seeing God. And people may think they are busy little bees doing and thinking and seeing many things, but they are ONLY trying to see God. She understood something about joy and life. She understood what Abel was feeling as he presented himself before the alter of God: Life was funny. And funny things could be laughed at. Even God. And God and his cosmos laughed back at her and with her. To Shannon, life was something more like a song or a dance. So she sang along. Enjoying the harmonies. The high parts and the lows. And she danced. But not to get to the end, or get it over with, or get anywhere; she danced just to dance. Because it was fun. Life was a dance; a thing to be enjoyed for the thing itself. Which is love. She held God and He held her and they danced.
But the rest of us—the poor, blind rest of us— sit on the side. Waiting for something. Waiting in the wings of Elah. Waiting in the mouth of the cave for God to pass by. Always looking for him in the hurricanes, those rare and terrible things, but never in the gentle breezes; the daily, quiet voices. We see the mundane where Shannon saw everyday eternities. We walk outside occasionally reminded the grass needs mowing. Shannon walked outside constantly amazed that grass is green. She loved life. She loved the existence God gave her. She loved the bluebird that dropped briefly into her backyard as profoundly as she loved the grocer that briefly dropped groceries into her bag. These were not random events. They were anything but random. They were a rhythm and a melody to be enjoyed for themselves. They were the ever surprising spins and twirls of the dance.
Left and Right—the whole crowd is at fault.
(Parallelism to St. Paul in the Castle barracks in Jerusalem in Acts 22)
Even when the left has you by the scruff of your neck and the right has the gun at your temple, there is no more joyous place to be than directly in the center of God’s will.
Those who mourn and repent will be saved. Those who don’t will be destroyed.
Those who mourn and repent for all the detestable things going on inside the temple will be saved.
The one out of seven—the writer—the marker—will mark the foreheads of those who mourn. And they will be spared. The rest of the seven are warriors who will pursue and destroy everyone else.
Similar to Cain’s mark, in a way. Tied to Seven and Multiples of seven.
It also connects to Paul’s Road to Damascus/ lightening bolt experience. A question lurks within: Is it a curse or a blessing to be spared? To see. To see your blindness. To be blind. To live knowing of your murderous heart. It is to be Cain. “Why did I live?” It is to be Paul and suddenly know, as if struck in the head with one of Stephen’s stones, of the detestable practices in your own temple.
It is to be marked in the head with a lightening scar. To be the boy who lived. To be this thing that cannot be killed from the outside. The mark brings with it seven-fold mayhem and seven hoarcruxes of death. The blood soaking in the earth moans and screams in your ears.
What is this mark then?
Is it a mark for life or a mark for death?
Both, in a way. The ego, my divine mark, as such, can not be killed from the outside. Yet my strange invincibility also chains me to Death; brings death to the world; both the Death I cause and the Death I escape. What to do with this marked thing? This monstrosity of consciousness. Touched by hate, and love and choice. Marked in a place visible to myself in a mirror only. What now? This mark! What to do about it? What now?!
There is only one solution: Death.
Death to the ego.
But since the almighty God himself has protected the bearer of this mark, like Job, from outside asphyxiation by Satan, the only possible death left to me is a voluntary one.
Only by laying down, only in letting go, only by a Way hidden in the pattern of flaming blades swirling over Eden, may the marked one become finally and forever accessible to his Savior—Breaking the chains of death. Bringing Life in the Savior. Bringing life to the world.
What is the mark?
It is a mark for redemption.
That is how forgiveness works.
Like life, the past is something you can choose to give away instead of keep.
To forgive is to give away a closely held past in the present moment. In a real sense, it is to walk into the past and release the poisonous link from the chain of your existence before it ever happened. And miraculously when you look down at the infected wound on your flank, it is healed. Just an old scar with the echo of something forgotten. The negative meaning, the pain, somehow unobtainable because you have finally chosen to let it go in the swift river. The injury and the wound set free to be spoken aloud with the tongues of angels in the mouths of man.
When you’re in the zone...
which is the proper mode of being...
which is the mode of Christ’s being...
...the target is huge. The bullseye enlarges to encompass all of you. You suddenly stand at the center of the magical fire. You can’t miss. Shoot.
I hate these bars.
I hate these chains.
I hate history.
Ok, but why hate? Why hate the thing you stand in the middle of?
Why not love? Or at least accept, which is the same thing since by any standard a good definition of love must include acceptance of a thing despite its limitations?
Bars, chains, and history just are. Limitations simply exist as a reality.
When Paul said—“I am exactly where I am supposed to be. How could I be anywhere else?”--
prison doors opened and chains fell off. This is the way to freedom.
When you hate your history you become the most hateful history.
Just ask the Bolsheviks.
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 is 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, 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.
Seeing your eyes limits your vision. Listening to your ears limits your hearing.
Being self-conscious limits your existence.
The gradual development of self-consciousness is almost by definition enculturation. Enculturation is one’s gradual ingestion of the surrounding culture until they become like it. It requires willing participation in the game. A child does not start out self-conscious but becomes so. It is when one begins to know that he knows, thinks, and judges that one forgets how it is he knows, thinks, and judges. He forgets from where his golden gift came. He breaks Samson’s rule and “lays a hand on his head.”
It is when you think you know truth—that you don’t.
It is when you know that you are the judge that you lose the ability.
It is the difference between feeling enslaved by your responsibilities in the world and feeling free to keep the temple and everything in it.
Are you weak? Are you enslaved? Are you pushing the millstone round and round?
Then…you are also blind.
"Christianity" is not a Life 360 app (in the same way a parent is not an "all-seeing eye"). It is not an “application”—an external thing that applies only when you open it up. If so, then it is just one more technically complex hieroglyph to interpret incorrectly, view sporadically, and then use tyrannically. If so, it only increases anxiety and mistrust.
Christianity IS life; in the same way "to parent" is to bring forth life--rather than inspect, or suspect it. It courses through every fiber. To fully utilize this marvel; you can not simply turn it on and check on other’s locations compared to your own—and then call that true, and right, and safe, and good—THAT’S WRONG! Believing that WHERE someone is, has ANYTHING to do with WHO someone is: that is a lie; and one everybody begins to believe. That my position relative to you, tells me who I am and where I am relative to God? That’s the exact trap Moses laid for himself: a stranger herding sheep that weren’t his own. You must go. You must journey to Egypt and do battle. You must uncover the Rosetta Stone engraved upon the heart! The secret stone which interprets all hieroglyphs, all complexities. That stone—that key— is what you give your children. It goes inside and turns locks. It works inside out—not outside in. It fills every crevasse of their world; reaching into places you can never go; telling them who they are no matter where they are.