life in the suture zone...

In the earthquake faults between tectonic plates, the suture zone is the in between place where they meet. I find in that a metaphor for the times in which we live... and invite your conversation in the suture zone.

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Location: Bakersfield, CA, United States

... a struggling, but mostly joyful, apprentice of Jesus.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

a long obedience...

I have been professing Christian for over 40 years now. (No applause, please. None is deserved.) One thing that comes with that length of time is the gift of perspective. For those of you who have been reading this blog, you know that I have struggled mightily of late with the current “moment” as I wrestle with the God who appears at moments not to be there. I think this is a struggle in part with trying to break out of the functional deism within which I was raised. And wondering if God is even there. (I thought I was long past this, but I guess not.)

Please forgive my weakness in that struggle. I do not mean to shake your faith. But I do mean to be honest about my own struggles. Be assured that I have not lost my hope in God.

But as I look back at the last several years, a part of that gift has been to recognize that the “now” is not the “all” of life. The moment is in fact just a moment. This moment in no way negates the moments past nor future. They are each pieces of the journey being woven together as our story. Sometimes they cause us to leap ahead with profound new insights. Sometimes they draw us back to the simple, grounding realizations of childhood. And sometimes they lead us right through the proverbial fire and out into the desert. While we may live “in the moment”, I’ve realized that we also live within the memory of moments past. And if we’ve gone down the path for a long enough time, we live within the expectation of moments in the future. More of our story is yet to be written.

This is a gift not to be ignored or treated lightly. And it is a gift, I am convinced, that is not just (or even primarily) for us. It is rather a gift for us to pass on to others who are gripped by the first episodes of doubt. Not the assurance that we have all the answers. Not the assurance that everything is okay and they'll be fine once we understand everything (as if that will ever happen!). Instead, it is the assurance that they too will make it through the path of trial; that though their questions may remain unanswered, they will survive the questions; that God is indeed faithful, though perhaps different and more and deeper and perhaps wilder than what they have experienced or are experiencing now (not to mention the sometimes long periods of silence).

I am convinced that what matters more than anything is a long obedience, by which I mean taking another step on the path set in front of you. I’ve heard of it as a long obedience in the same direction, but my experience with the labyrinth this past Thursday morning (see earlier post) has shown me otherwise. The path can indeed turn from the face of God. It is not pleasant, nor necessarily healthy when we do. But, let’s face it. We do that at times, don’t we?

And I don’t think God is offended by our questions. I have questions still, in spite of the few days at the monastery. The epiphany for me there was less a dramatic experience of God’s presence nor even his still small voice recognizable beyond all doubt. Either or both may happen in my lifetime, I don’t know. Rather, the epiphany I experienced was more the sense that this life with God is a process, a journey, a continuing saga. (I’m old enough now that I can call it a saga, don’t you think?)

I will always have unanswered questions. Always. It is my nature. If I wait to take the next step until all my questions are answered and I have things "figured out," I will never take another step in any direction.

My choices are simple. I can choose to imagine I am walking the path with – or at least toward – God. Or I can believe that I am walking it alone. All that I am called on to do is to set one foot in front of the other on either path. It’s still a path. Either God is still at the center and will reveal himself to me or I am alone. If he is at the center, there is no question that I am and have always been mistaken about him and his nature in at least some of my understanding, no matter how much I’ve thought or studied or experienced. I just need to make peace with that.

I choose to walk believing that he is there and having at least some small confidence that he will reveal himself to me again in his time. At least I trust so.

And so we keep walking....

Grace and peace,



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