Monday, February 19, 2007

"All of life is a coming home. Salesmen, secretaries, coal miners, beekeepers, sword-swallowers, all of us. All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home. It's hard to describe what I felt like then. Picture yourself walking for days in the driving snow; you don't even know you're walking in circles. The heaviness of your legs in the drifts, your shouts disappearing into the wind. How small you can feel, and how far away home can be.

"Home. The dictionary defines it as both a place of origin and a goal or destination. And the storm? The storm was all in my mind. Or as the poet Dante put it: In the middle of the journey of my life, I found myself in a dark wood, for I had lost the right path. Eventually I would find the right path, but in the most unlikely place."

~Opening lines from Patch Adams

This weekend, Pete and I shot our first fully secular wedding. Aside from the obvious differences in celebratory methods (i.e. this couple *did* have alcohol served), one thing stood out to me that left me questioning a few things.

This wedding had the most plain fun I've ever seen at a function.

I loved the people I was photographing. They were so real. Nobody was putting on a front for anybody else; they were just there, living, laughing, getting married. There was obviously pain from the past that was present, and yet it didn't cripple them in their celebration. There was fear for the future, but also hope. There was a desire for this marriage to be the right thing, just like at the Christian weddings we have shot to this point. But the joy was real. It wasn't a put-on "this couple is getting married, we're supposed to be happy for them" routine. They were genuinely happy.

The only thing missing was the depth of a relationship based in Christ. I expect this marriage will be better than many Christian marriages I've seen. They really want it. They really respect it. And they've been through a lot to get here. For non-Christians, this is as good as it gets.

For myself, as a Christian, I feel ashamed.

What is this life that they had, this laughter that they shared, this joy that they experienced together? There was a common understanding that life is hard, love is a risk, and the moments we live are the moments worth living. How much more full they seemed than I, I who have everything in Christ Jesus, I who understands mercy, who knows grace, who has seen and felt the faithfulness of God and acknowledged Him as Lord!

I saw real joy yesterday--in unsaved people. I saw real life yesterday--in unsaved people. I saw real love yesterday--in unsaved people. What do I have that they don't have? I don't wonder that non-Christians can't stand believers. No witnessing class or method ever taught me how to witness to people who aren't drinking themselves into oblivion or questioning their worldview or blatantly denying God. These people just didn't know. They didn't know God. That was the only difference between them and me. That and the fact that I'm so afraid to live that I don't know where my joy is most of the time.

Why are Christians so dour? Why do we walk around with a to-do list and a don't-do list that leaves us judging ourselves and everyone around us, just to measure up to a God who promised us life abundant? I don't know if I'm more sorry for the people at that wedding yesterday or for the church that has lost its joy in the Holy Ghost.

I've been reading this book lately about the Incarnation of Christ, a collection of ponderings by Madeline L'Engle. It's challenging to think of Christ becoming flesh, laying aside His glory, and pouring out His life to show us how to live. How we have missed the boat. Could it be that the best way to relate to God is not in trying to reach His level, but in being content to know that He remembers ours?

Being human. That's what we are. We can't escape our humanity, believer or unbeliever. We are forever bound by our own dust. But He remembers that we are dust. He Himself became dust like us and was tempted in every way as we are--and lived every day in the heat and the cold and the tired and the busy and the sick and the weak. And He ate with sinners and healed on the Sabbath and spent time with His Father and laughed with His disciples and wept with His friends and struggled with His Gethsemane... and died.

I've been so tired, I haven't wanted to live. I'm so sick of trying to go on learning to know God more in the face of the undeniable logic of the "church," which says that I can't have the intimacy with Him that He holds out to me in so many places in Scripture, and that doesn't live the abundant life that He came to bring us. But I wasn't called to the "church." I was called to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He didn't spend His life living by a to-do list. He spent His life living, caring, healing, loving, challenging, hurting, praying, hoping, agonizing. He felt what I feel. He created me to live to the fullest, complete in Himself. I may not know how that fits with everything I've been taught, but then, He's the one who is teaching me this, so I figure I can probably take His Word on it.

Being at that wedding yesterday taught me that He is the only One who can appeal to people who have life "as good as it gets." His fullness, His joy, His *life* is the only thing outside their world that appeals to them. No plan of salvation would have turned their heads the way that Pete's and my love for one another brought their notice and curiosity to us. How much more fully can I live, can I risk living in Him, can I dare to seek intimacy with Him?


Heidi said...

I wonder if, as Christians, we get so caught up in the shame game that we look at even a wedding as an opportunity to perform and to prove ourselves, rather than a place to just BE ourselves? I've been thinking a lot about shame (as you'll notice if you see my most recent blog post.) Not that unbelievers don't have shame/performance issues, but I think they show up differently. You're right, it's sad that weddings become such a show and a farse...when they're really supposed to be reminders of the wedding supper of the Lamb!

Leeann said...

I loved, loved, loved reading this. We need to talk and soon :-P

Anonymous said...

Wow ... between you and Heidi, who needs a bunch of theologians!


Kelly Sauer said...

FD ~ you don't have to be a theologian to understand the simplicity of Christ and Him crucified. My sister-in-law, who has Down's Syndrome, understands more of God in her childish capacity than any seminarian, theologian, or philosopher I have ever heard or known. He comes to the weak and the foolish, because the wise and the learned cannot understand His heart.

Leeann ~ YES, we need to catch up!

the Joneses said...

My thoughts are:

All of us, regardless of the state of our souls, are beings in God's image. We all have the capacity for joy and love, so it rather should surprise us that some people don't experience it.

We are, and know, Christians personally and intimately, so we know our flaws, moods, and darkness. Just because none of that was on display at this wedding, you can't assume it isn't there.

Don't turn and rend your own in a misplaced shame. Instead, as you ended your post, give thanks to a great God who shares Himself with all, and Who can be known more fully by those who love Him.

-- SJ

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