… Our souls need a ceasefire. … And what do we do with this baby? … What does this Jesus have to do with our brokenness and wounds? What does he have to say when the plot-lines of our life don’t wrap up cleanly like a Christmas tree? …
The relevancy of this piece seems to increase – literally – every day.
And we are wearied by it, the load of all the things we’re supposed to (and should!) care about – there’s Just. Too. Much. The litany in this piece (song?) is just a beginning. And our souls do need a ceasefire. There’s only so much we can handle, so much we can try to care about before we totally disintegrate into a bleeding heart that is all too soon fully bled-out, and either withdraws into the protective, hard-edged walls of apathy for the sake of very real self-preservation or becomes totally drained of life and teeters on the edge of perishing.
And I am personally sick of all the FB activism (slacktivism?), fed up not least of all by my own participation in it, or lack of participation in it, and my own ambivalent uncertainty toward any form of activism or social media use in general, and disgusted by the ways I myself am implicated by the barrage of hashtags and “awareness-raising” posts and how I am both drawn to it and pushed away, and further frustrated/disgusted that one of my top concerns, apparently, is this convoluted matter of self-image – and I know I’m not expressing myself very clearly right now, but I hope it still communicates effectively (or maybe just helps relive me) – when there are people literally dying unjust deaths every single day, and there’s “so little we can do about it,” when maybe actually our promises to pray and expressions of feelings of helplessness are just another gutless way of hiding, of evading our duty/-ies, and we do so little that actually really matters about anything. I’m both sick of FB and the news and hypocrisy and suspicion and second-guessing and overthinking and Bad News and braving, wading through the tormentingly confusing territory where both tedious trivia and devastating trauma are lumped together side-by-side, unmixed, like a badly cooked dish – and I am both repulsed and irresistibly drawn to it all. I want to both cut myself off from all of existence, and to throw myself full-tilt, headfirst into a wholehearted participation in this mess of humanity. — Because what else is there for me, or for anybody wishing to live in reality?
But is there a third way? — “And what do we do with this baby?”
But I don’t want to be too quick to jump to a neat answer. It feels too simple and dismissive and disrespectful to those suffering Real Pain.
And I understand now, more than ever before, why it is that people turn to drugs and ear-shattering, senseless Scream-o music that sounds (to me) like it’s literally from the pits of hell, and why there are bands with names like Rage Against the Machine, or why people have problems with binge-eating and binge-TV and anything and everything that will numb them against life and existence and make them just Not Care, because if they do care at all, they will probably be destroyed by it. I understand more than ever why it is that people harden their hearts, why “Looking Out for Number 1” is a thing, and why people are angry at God or any notion of God, or why some people drink themselves into oblivion, “Just to stop thinking,” as one top-notch honor student kid I knew in one of the colleges I attended did regularly, and ___ [on and on and on].
And increasingly, I am wishing that I had started this blog under a pseudonym and never told my family or anybody that it was me, so I could rant and rage fully unchecked, without any fears or thoughts of potential familial lash-backs or awkward, botched attempts at “interventions” or “reaching out to me” or concerns that this is all a cry for help, which it IS, but one on behalf of the whole world, not just me, because who are we if not lost and broken and hurting as a whole humanity, because the world IS completely messed up, it seems…
And, yes, it has not escaped me that “participating fully in our humanity” is exactly the point of the Incarnation – that this all has Everything to do with the “this baby”.
Maybe I should’ve titled this “Rage with those who rage.” Do you think Christ meant to imply that at all when he spoke those words in his now-famous (but not famous enough) sermon on that mountain? (Do you know that, supposedly, Gandhi read the Sermon on the Mount at the start of each and every single day? And he didn’t even consider himself a Christian…but he sure acted a heck of a lot more like one than many other public figures, politicians, and “leaders” I could name…but why point at them? I can just start with me. And I think Gandhi would approve of that, at least.)
And I’m sure I’ll regret publishing this post at some point, if I even have the guts to publish it at all. But I probably will. God knows I’m sick of thinking about all of this every day.
And however much it might seem scandalous (or maybe it’s not, none of it, and most of this junk is all just some other unrecognized, twisted ego-boost in me feeling like I’m edgy, getting high off of just the thought of words like “Politically Active” and “Radical,” another undisclosed, unconscious way of serving myself and perversely putting my own interests first), I feel myself initially sympathizing strongly with those using #GodIsntFixingThis, because, Guess what?! They are SO right – God is NOT fixing this — at least not without working through you and me, ordinary human beings. Because for whatever God-only-knows purpose, that seems to be the way that things go down, and that God operates throughout human history: through humanity. Along with some divine interventions, and of course the giant, inescapable act of God breaking into history in coming to earth to us Himself as a human baby that is the whole focus of Advent, and the whole point of Christianity and the only hope for me.
God shared in our mess. Completely. And the brokenness of the world did, literally, Kill Him. He – God Himself – died: He was crucified on a tree. Crucified. Can we imagine, again, and try to get just a little bit closer to what that actually means – and all the gruesome imagery it can evoke, because it’s suffering, it’s blood and sweat and human flesh ripped and pierced, and it is This Man of Sorrows, the One Acquainted with Grief, that that cute baby in the manger was always destined to grow up to be.
And right now, that’s one of the top meanings of Advent for me. And the waiting aspect – because we are still, in many respects, in the “Saturday” between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, and all is not yet made right with the world, even though there IS the hope (otherwise, the absence of it would kill me) that one day it will be, that all will be made new and right and the Kingdom of God – characterized by Peace and Justice will be established, and there will be the Tree of Life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations…but that day has not yet come, and there is still so much work to be done, and so, so much occasion to still mourn with those who mourn.
But, God help us, we also, I think, just need to be able to rest. I don’t care if it’s a cliche – this World is in serious need of Peace.
And I also just kinda want to sleep, sometimes forever, and to take a break from it all, from all the attempts to discover how we’re, I’m, supposed to “help” or whatever — to balance my agreement with how we ourselves need to join action to our prayers and “Be the change we wish to see in the world” (Gandhi again) and also feeling like its all futile, anyway, and yes, absolutely, we must continue to “Fight the long defeat!,” but first, I’d just like a little rest and some peace…but knowing that, for so many, there is no peace, or any likelihood or possibility of external peace, at least. And so how are any of us supposed to be at peace as long as that is a reality for so many? Souls get weary; “Our souls need a ceasefire.” Any abundance of hashtags isn’t going to save the world or change anything, really. (Or does it change something??)
And maybe, sometime soon, we will be able to draw just a bit nearer to the Silent and Holy Night part of this season. But I’m not there yet. I’m stuck on O Come, O Come Emmanuel, to ransom captive Israel, and captive all of us, that mourns in lonely exile here – until the Son of God appear, and eventually, yes, on to the Rejoice! part, but I’m not there yet, and I think that’s okay, that has to be okay, or else none of us are okay, which none of us kind of are, but sometimes I think I will and It will all be O.K., but yet I still want so much more than “just” being O.K., and now that I’ve started this stream-of-consciousness thing, it seems I’ve unleashed a beast and I literally just cannot stop, and I’m not even “supposed” to be blogging right now, I’m supposed to be job-searching and applying to things so that I can make money and pay off my students loans and other minor debts and become Respectable, and a responsible citizen by making money.
Christmastime isn’t really (or really at all) all lights and ribbons and bright wrapping paper and bows and gifts and fun and snow. There’s the celebration of the birth of Christ – but birth involves labor, tremendous pain, ripping and blood. There are the Royal Gifts of the Magi, but there’s also the slaughter of the infants that came in their wake, as the coming of the regal foreigners from the East alerted Herod, a representative of the governing empire and powers-that-be, of the threat to his own, piddly, temporal rule – but still powerful enough to massacre kids, and leave mothers broken and weeping – Rachel crying out and mourning for her children.
Mourn with those who mourn; weep with those who weep.
And maybe then we will be better positioned then ever to hear and discern, to recognize and to listen to that Voice (and the many other smaller voices) of one crying out in the wilderness — Prepare the way of the Lord.
God only knows how desperately we all need this Savior of the World – coming in the most unlikely form of this Baby.
But what do we do with this Baby…?