Revisited: Fiona Apple

I remember the first time I “discovered” this song. It was a few years after Tidal came out, I think, and I was in my first real relationship, if you will. I was so sure I loved him, and in a way I did. But we were so incongruent. Our paths were heading in very different directions and I felt as if I had to choose between abandoning someone to their chaos to discover my own answers or… drowning in order to save someone else. This song spoke so deeply to me; that someone out there understood suffering and the beautiful depth it gave to life, as well as what it meant to be with someone who didn’t see it. Who didn’t know that the depth that we love others is the depth at which we might also suffer, and who didn’t believe the price we pay is worth admission. Over and over, I would choose to love at the cost of pain rather than choose to not love at all. I had to believe it was worth it. That it was an essential part of what it meant to be truly alive.

This is not to mean that I believe all love is pain or suffering, but sometimes there is loss, or betrayal, or disappointment. The guy I was with at that time… well, it worked out for the best for the both of us when it ended (I assume). And I’ve discovered there are special people out there who know some of these depths we can reach and choose to let it be something that enhances their life rather than steals it. That makes them treasure even more the shades and shadows, to reach greater and greater heights. As I listen to this song, I remember feeling the way she does at the beginning… “I’ll never glow, the way that you glow…” and I’m relieved I don’t feel that way anymore. More than ever, I feel filled with light. But I believe that is because I have discovered the blessing, the hope, the love in my struggle. As I grow older, I feel like my emotions go deeper, but they are less turbulent. There is a nuance to life that the black and white vision of my youth did not allow. Anyways, I’ve listen to the Tidal album a few times this past week and it’s reminded me of all this and I wanted to log it somewhere.

 

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We’re all Blind

“A Conversion,” by Martin Buber, was a difficult read. Within his writing, I struggle to discern exactly what his intention is with providing such a vague description of a moment in which he is having a rare experience with Mystery. He says at the start that “In the early years the ‘religious’ was for me the exception.” (Buber 84) However, what I believe we ultimately hear described is a conversion: Buber changes from one perspective to another. Where before Mystery was the exception, at the end of his work he says that, “I possess nothing but the everyday out of which I am never taken. The mystery is no longer disclosed, it has escaped or it has made its dwelling here where everything happens as it happens.” (Buber 84)

It is much easier to understand the difference between an “I-It” relationship (relating to another as an object, like viewing the world through the “arrogant eye” discussed previously) and an “I-Thou” relationship (relating to the other as a thou, like viewing the world through the “loving eye) when we examine it through the Raymond Carver’s “The Cathedral.” In the story, a man writes about his wife who has been friends with a blind man for around ten years. The man, this woman’s husband, doesn’t really want the blind man to come. To her husband, the blind man is summed up in his disability. At one point, while reflecting on the death of the blind man’s wife, he says, “And then to slip off into death, the blind man’s hand on her hand, his blind eyes streaming tears—I’m imagining now—her last thought maybe this: that he never even knew what she looked like, and she on an express to the grave.” (Carver 4) His understanding of the blind man is entirely constrained by the “It” of his blindness. He imagines how miserable the man’s wife must have been at not being seen by her husband, never considering all the ways we see each other without our eyes.

It isn’t until he sees the blind man as a thou that he begins to understand that this truly and fully a man, a person with depth and capacity similar to his own. After his wife fell asleep on the couch, they began watching a show together on cathedrals. At times where it wasn’t narrated, the man attempted to describe what he was seeing to the blind man. He says, “Something has occurred to me. Do you have any idea what a cathedral is? What they look like, that is? Do you follow me? If somebody says cathedral to you, do you have any notion what they’re talking about? Do you the difference between that and a Baptist church, say?” (Carver 10) The blind man answers in contexts that likely did not occur to the man: he speaks of the number of workers it took, the amount of years, the generations of investment. He shared that he understood that men would start a project knowing that they wouldn’t see it completed. Eventually, the blind man asks the man to draw a cathedral for him, and places his hand on the mans so that he might “see” what the man is drawing though the movements. This is really the point where the man truly begins to see the blind man as a thou. He put all his energy into trying to describe through these movements what a cathedral was.

At the very end, the blind man asked the man who was drawing to close his eyes, but to keep drawing. Finally, at the end, the blind man asks him to look at his drawing and tell him what he thinks. The man, now, is not quite ready to open his eyes. I think this is an expression of solidarity with the blind man, of really seeing the man in his wholeness. We witness the woman’s husband shift from viewing the blind man as an “it” to a “thou,” and the weird and beautiful things that can come out of that transition.

 

Works Cited

Buber, Martin. “A Conversion.” Meetings. London: Routledge, 2002. Excerpt.

Carver, Raymond. “Cathedral.” Carver, Raymond. Collected Stories. New York: Library of America, 2009. Short Story.

 

New Year, New Goals

New Years resolutions have always seemed like a thing that everyone around me sets and then (most often) fails to accomplish. A way to set up disappointment before the new year even gets started.

My roommate had a tradition that she shared with me (and I tweaked a little bit) where she takes all of these categories and sets goals for each and then checks in on them throughout the year.  I added scripture I found for each category which helped lead me to the goals I set.  I think it transformed the way I view the upcoming year and what I could accomplish in it. I’m going to share those today.

FINANCIAL

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10

  1. Make a budget and stick to it.
  2. Continue to give first; don’t let fear prevent generosity.

LEADERSHIP

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

  1. Find a mentor who leads through a posture of humility and compassion.

PHYSICAL

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” I Corinthians 6:19-20

  1. Regularly track food (MyFitness Pal).
  2. Build stamina and strength: at least 30 minutes of activity at least 3 times a week.
  3. Lose 50 lbs. this year.

COMMUNITY

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” Romans 15:5

  1. Be intentional about developing relationships in Uptown and Clifton (regularly show up to groups and serving role).
  2. Demonstrate a servant heart, both as a leader and a follower.
  3. Pray for my groups more regularly.

CREATIVE

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

  1. Get a keyboard/piano.
  2. Make a stained glass piece.

INTELLECTUAL

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

  1. Finish my Master’s Degree.
  2. Develop an understanding and application of the prophetic.

PRAYER

“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all saints.” Ephesians 6:18

  1. Pray for the right leadership to be called to Katie’s camp.
  2. Establish a prayer board with Katie and pray together each Sunday for the people and things on the board.

REST

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalm 127:2

  1. REMEMBER Psalm 127:2.
  2. Schedule rest weekly.
  3. Sleep at least 7 hours each night (set sleep reminders, track via Fitbit)
  4. Spend time at a cabin and time near some water.

COURAGE/REQUESTS

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:7-12

  1. Foster an open heart and grow in vulnerability (eyes and heart open to opportunities).
  2. Seek a godly man more faithfully and hopefully.

 

God Asks for Obedience

1 John 2:3 “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”

God expects obedience in His followers. In fact we see in the Bible that to show our love to God is to obey Him and keep His commandments. This is not how we “earn” our way to heaven. We cannot do that because we all fall short and any sin is too much sin in the presence of a perfect God. The sin of gossip is just as heavy as cheating or any other biblical sin; we in America like to try to rate sin and say these are okay and these aren’t. The truth is we are all guilty and they are all bad and cause us all to fall short. Jesus and repentance closed that gap for us.

Mark 1:15  “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

We repent, believe, obey, and continue in this cycle to try to keep his commandments because it is our way of showing God we love Him and want to abide in Him. It is showing we acknowledge His place and ours.

Romans 6:4 “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Baptism is the action being born again (which I’ll write about at some other point but John 3 is a great resource); of dying to ourselves. We commit ourselves to our belief, receive the Spirit and begin to be transformed. The more we “die” to ourselves and dedicate ourselves to God, the more joy and freedom we discover.

Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

My path has been clearer, my heart lighter, my life more joyful and my struggle less the more I submit to God. Is it easy? NO. I feel constantly challenged but I also have a faith that provides this indescribable buoyancy in moments that would have once sunk me. Times like friends being diagnosed with serious diseases, deaths in the family, my imminent job loss in the next couple years when I realized God didn’t want me to move for money, or even ending an almost eight year relationship knowing I’d never get to see his kids again. My heart broke and I pray often for him and his children. But we all had to make hard choices.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

No, of course it isn’t easy. But this journey was definitely worth it. I lost some close relationships in the beginning (drinking buddies, anti-Christians, etc.) because I stopped doing what made me “feel good” in the moment and started trying to act in obedience to God and the Scripture while continuing to try to be authentic about who I was and what I was struggling with at the time. Later I realized that as a Christian I needed to spread what I was so grateful to have received, the Gospel, to others with grace and love to my community through compassionate ministry. I’ve downsized, I’ve pursued educational opportunities not just in books but in service (words and action).

I fail over and over again every day but I am not disheartened or ashamed or saddened.  I know where I come from and I know in what ways I have been and continue to be restored. I see where my growth in obedience is and I know that this, along with my prayers, is how I let God know I am moving towards Him.