“Striking at mental apparitions
Like a drunk on a vacant street
Silently beset by the hands of time
Indelicate in its fury” –Greg Graffin
A dusty cowpoke once told me that “the more you leave, the less you lose”, but I’m starting to think he was losing his mind…but then again, how could I know? I never got a good look at him on account of the fact that he was just a bunch of random magnetic impressions on a tape…in a movie. For a time this was my M.O. (my modus operandi). I lived my life and shared relationships as though I was gonna take off one day…soon. This wasn’t because I didn’t like people; it was because I was always afraid of what people might think of me if they ever looked behind the curtain. What a pitiful little wizard.
I never determined, at any point in my life, consciously, that I was not going to have meaningful relationships. That was just my resting point. Like the unfortunate people who, when not paying attention to what their face muscles are doing, sit there with their mouths a gape, watching American Idol. My immediate reaction to intimacy, of any type, was knee-jerk, and visceral. I didn’t even like to be touched, if someone put their hand on my shoulder, it found no soft purchase…I was tense. While there were a myriad of reasons for this—horrible experiences that inform the most reptilian parts of my, still evolving, brain. There was also a strange idea in me that I was not going to live to see Thirty…even well into my Thirties; hell I’m Thirty-Nine (in June), and I still think this at times. Those who know me know that my math skills are sub-par, but this is a new low. Maybe it was because I was so drunk on my Thirtieth birthday that I don’t believe it happened, or I believe I’m living out some Swayzian reality…though I’ve never been near a potter’s wheel. Well I’ve been on one for some time now, and I guess that’s the point of this post. Isn’t it? Sorry, stupid question. How would you know, unless you’ve read ahead? (I’m starting to think that I sometimes write things just to make it easier to get to 1000 words…)
Anyhow, I was going along my merry way having many relationships the likes of which I thought were normal. I was treating people as though they were expendable. Not in the eighties movie-villain school of dismissiveness (no it’s not a word). My cruelty was more passive. I was just a dumb-ass who never considered that the relationships in my life were to be treasured—that they had value.
Then a funny thing happened on the road to dumbassness (I know, I know), I was blinded by the light of true love. True love is a real mother-fucker (I don’t mean mother-fucker in an offensive, shocking way. I mean it in the “first thing that comes to mind when you break your toe on a chair leg” way. It’s the point when your life changes painfully and instantly, when having a cavalier attitude as you walk through the dinning room will never happen again). I’m not talking about the love where you have to “love yourself, before you love others”…or the love where you “put others before yourself” because it’s the right thing to do. I’m talking about the love that grabs your head…holds it firmly in front of a mirror…long enough for you to get over yourself and really look at the reflection that confronts you…and once you’ve met the dirty reflection’s gaze, this love tells you that it is real regardless of all the reflection tells you. Like revolutionary love.
I’ve been married for nearly eighteen years now, and it is amazing to me that my wife has stuck it out for this long. I am so aware of this inequitable transaction, the fact that I married way up, that there are times, when it’s dark and quiet, when I will wander around my own house and think, “I don’t know who owns this place, whose life this is, but when he finds out I’ve been here, he’s gonna be pissed.” It is a strange thought. I just don’t feel like I belong, on some level. I’m learning, after nearly twenty years of relationship with Kristy, that she really loves me, I mean really. It is a love that is undeserved and impossible to shirk; God knows I’ve tried. The rate at which I’m learning this, however, is painfully slow. There is a possibility that I am worse at relationships than math…though it seems improbable.
Another example of love, that stopped me in my tracks and made me take notice of its presence, is the love that I’ve received from my friends that I’ve met through the church that I attend. Over the seven, or so, years that I’ve been at Seaside Church I’ve learned many things about love that have been able to inform me about relationships, not only present and future, but past as well. The evolution of Seaside as a body is the story of my own evolution, my understanding love. Through pain and heartache, both of my doing and the doing of some other imperfect person, I’ve been able to see what love actually looks like…true love, the revolution, the mother-fucker.
All of this love was motivated by one thing. God’s love, not the distortion that informs Greg Graffin’s “God’s Love” (a beautiful critique on man’s understanding of God in the midst of suffering) (though not intentionally), but God’s love as demonstrated by the sending of a sacrificial offering, while we still hated Him, to heal the relationship that He longs to share with us. A love that exposes all the lies we believe about ourselves (even the ones we like), a love that changes you in a way that cannot be explained by chemistry, or through empty platitudes, a love that endures. This is the love that is the gift of Christ. This is the love which my wife offers me…which my friends offer me…which I am learning to share…which we are all learning to share. It is the answer. It is what heals us from self-loathing, and selfish indifference. The cowboy was right; the more we move, the less we lose. If we never have deep relationships, we will never be hurt by them. On a related topic, if you find you can’t quit pissing the bed, you could always just abstain from liquids.