Sunday, December 30, 2007

my book report for abba's child

so i thought i'd post the book report we had to do for the last book we read. i know, it sounds boring, but what better way to see (or read in this case) how what we learn in kairos applies to life? plus, it very much reflects my current feelings. so here we go:

“I don’t want to be a pie.”
I wish I could write this report by simply putting together a bunch of quotes from Abba’s Child. But alas, I cannot. I found myself marking every other page, swearing to commit it to memory because of the advice it gave. And by advice, I mean that stuff that you’ll never ask for but that which only the closest people to you can read by the plea in your eyes, not those clichés that people think you need to hear to appease the heart-broken-pity-the-worm feeling in your gut. Abba’s Child was an easy read in that diction was sophisticated, the syntax was rhythmic; the overall prose was poetic. But this “easy read” is the stuff that brings me to tears sitting alone in a busy airport terminal on a cold Saturday morning. So excuse my feeble attempt to make sense of it’s direction. I cannot do it justice in relation to it’s impact on me, but c’est la vie.
I was thinking about what I could title this paper, and came to this, a quote from the movie Chicken Run. It’s silly, the things that stick in your head but anytime I don’t want to do something, for whatever reason, this line comes to mind. I got to thinking about it in comparison to Manning’s talk about the Impostor. I guess for forever long (or so it seems), I believed this Impostor was not just a projection, a façade or a cosmetic. It was innermost part of me; my inherent core. I don’t know that I really wanted to believe that; does anyone want to believe they are “bad” deep deep inside? But I couldn’t understand how to believe differently. So I got to thinking that perhaps those moments when war raged inside of me, those were the moments when my heart realized that this wasn’t true—that it wasn’t bad—and before my head could react, my heart tried to separate me from my Impostor. My mind would wail, “NO! Don’t let Me go,” because I was—I am—so afraid that me would be lost. Manning writes about the Impostor that “if he would become silent within and without he would discover himself to be nothing, he would be left with nothing but his own nothingness, and to the false self which claims to be everything, such a discovery would be his undoing” (pg. 43). I supposed my inconsistency comes from my wanting in desire to witness My undoing.
And I never thought I was deserving of an undoing. Why should anyone care enough to loosen me, untie me from the knots I so quickly tangled myself in? The Impostor, charmingly fragrant, led me to believe that I needed no undoing, because I like everyone else was born rotten and therefore had to learn to be good. See, I never thought I was naturally decent; my impropriety came easy and was likewise downsized as intrinsic. Manning explains it like so, “If we gloss over our selfishness and rationalize the evil within us, we can only pretend we are sinners and therefore only pretend we are sinners. A sham spirituality of pseudo-repentance and pseudo-bliss eventually fashions into what modern psychiatry calls a borderline personality, in which appearances make up for reality” (pg. 154). I think to my friends and the life I left in the desert and how we would always claim to be real. We drink and smoke and never pretend to be perfect like all the other Sunday-best-hands-raised-eyes-closed-when-I-sing hypocrites who run the church. But really we were just relativists dressed up in Christian costumes. We took a “you handle yours and I’ll handle mine” stance on repentance and contentment, hoping against our rationalization that perhaps life might turn out better. But it never did because, even in our supposed hypocritlessness, we were acting. We wanted our authenticity to be bona fide, but we were just playing dress up.
It is the most difficult article to put on—the humility of acknowledged selfishness which leads to seizing His forgiveness and falling into repentance. We may have recognized our evil, but it was in the same way I recognize I’m sitting on a chair. For my friends and I, our sin was what it was and that’s where it stopped. But to wholly accept selfish behavior is to likewise accept that there is an alternate righteous behavior. Sitting down with this knowledge is to stand up with the conviction that there still exists today a force which calls us to virtue. See, if God were dead, this statement would be too. But He’s not. We live, or at least we should, in the awareness of the present riseness of Christ. The reason we don’t is because it would take the inconvenience of pulling on that cloak of humility that allows us to say “yes” to our inadequacy and to accept His perfect capacity. Manning says, “This yes is an act of faith, a decisive, wholehearted response to my whole being to the risen Jesus present beside me, before me, around me and within me; a cry in confidence that my faith in Jesus provides security not only in the face of death but in the face of a worse threat posed by my own malice; a word that must not just be said once but repeated over and over again in the ever-changing landscape of life” (pg. 99).
This is not just the “Help me Jesus” I cry out in the middle of the night. It needs to be the “Help me Jesus” that I whisper under my breath in class, that I breathe into my cold hands before reaching for the frozen handle of the car door, that I pray before I bite into a sandwich. It is my admission that I don’t get it and won’t get it but I’ll make it if I linger a little longer by His side. I don’t need to worry about being made into a pie because I’m not a chicken. I am my Abba’s child and like a daughter clings to her dad for warmth on a windy day, I am holding tight to the strong arm of my Father.