I’m not the same person I was a month ago, last week, or yesterday. Two years and a thousand demanding, laborious life events eventually caught up and crashed into me tsunami style. It was a Sunday afternoon on a walk with Austin when I became my own ragdoll, rolling under waves and water, thrown this way and that way; breathless, breaking to pieces.
It must’ve happened because I finally made space in my calendar to fall apart, which is related to the question: how much self-talk do we talk just to keep ourselves sane until a more suitable time?
That night I crawled on palms and knees into bed, fell down next to the terrible pain in my chest and sobbed out an iconic question: “What is the meaning of life?” (It is good for the girl with so many answers to sit in the dark without them for a while, to be cradled by a long shadow of doubt. Isn’t this an essential place which provokes more hunger for God?)
From hindsight all that emotion can sound sort of silly and stageworthy–even to myself–except the raw and the grind and the fracturing was real and there’s only so much a body can take, eh?
And maybe I should’ve seen it coming . . . how I had reached a fullness of myself. Do you know what I mean? Every now and again there are reasons why we outgrow our own clay container; we outgrow our former selves and the breaking to bits is a sign of those times–the busting before the next burgeoning.
In more words: Who I was couldn’t support who I am becoming.
So here I sit with my splinters and limbs hanging out on the line to dry, littering the street and sidewalk. Look how my ideals are leaking onto the sheets with no skin to hold them in. Ashes to ashes we all fall down, or take a rake in the forehead when we don’t see it lying there in the leaves.
I can’t rightly recall how many times brokenness and I have ridden the merry-go-round together, but there is one thing I ascertain from my every experience with it:
Just about the entirety of what I think I know when I’m feeling whole goes right out the window. And that’s okay. Because who am I but a sojourner in a body I didn’t make, in a land I didn’t create.
What do I actually know of anything?
Humility and humanity must go hand-in-hand. Which is to say: humility and humanity come from the same root word meaning “of the ground; earth”. There are seasons when we should go so low we hit it with our faces. And by “it”, I mean: gravel, grit, forest floor or floorboards. Hit it. Dust thou art and to dust thou must return.
Somehow this brings me to the lately-pages of my journal, the paper that has been a witness to the shape and size of my shattering; the stretch and scope of my present metamorphosis.
“Am I going to come back to life?”
“I know nothing about nothing, except these bites of my carcass on the carpet.”
Which then brought me to:
“How do I prepare myself an Advent with this broken body?”
“Am I fit to midwife a Kingdom being born in the night?”
My previous expeditions by starlight and to the stable cannot sustain the now me, so I must go there again; I must travel back in time, across distance and demographic on this yearly pilgrimage through the desert of my Gentile heart to the baseborn birth seat of my Sovereign.
Do I still believe what I say I believe?
How do I find out?
I only know to close my eyes and apply these two trembling appendages and this one damp cheek to the clenched belly holding, folding baby God. See my tears watering her skin, the form of my fingers; how I shake and ache. Present condition and circumstance notwithstanding, I want this holy night in my heart, in my hair, in my pockets, in my pores . . . because if this holy night is true, then God has been unleashed on us and we should all strap ourselves to our seats and strap crash helmets to our heads and strap life vests to our chests.
There are distractions everywhere in my own age and space, but I won’t leave the labor room. I won’t take my hold off this maiden womb rolling with waves of divine fists and feet. I am between worlds, a knee and half a mind in each time, bending at the border between B.C. and A.D.; stuck spellbound thinking about our 21st century scientists and how they calculate the existence of a mere one-hundred billion galaxies in the known universe.
And the Gospel story says the Baby contracting under my hands created this boundless macrocosm, then decided the only way any of us had a shot at understanding an iota of his love was to shrink pint-sized and penetrate one single planet the diameter of a pale blue dot.
What depth of ludicrousness is this born story of God’s son, peasant’s child, dwindled down to earth from the cosmos he himself created? The narrative is so audacious—so absurd—no homosapien intellect could have strung the thoughts together to thunk it up.
I mean: how can anyone in their right brain believe it? The logician’s mind will split on any side of this mystery. The poet might have a chance at believing the unbelievable; only a crazy person would consider such claims as true and according to this Frederick Buechner passage, I just might—on my good days—fit the description of demented.
“If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, mind your own business, and Jesus says, there is no such thing as your own business. The world says, follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, follow me and be crucified. The world says, drive carefully–the life you save might be your own–and Jesus says, whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, law and order, and Jesus says, love. The world says, get, and Jesus says, give. In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.”
Come all ye coots and crazies, you alone are fit to to sit at the open legs of Mary and midwife a King who wears burlap sacks and a crown of thorns; a King who came not to be served by his subjects, but to wash the dust off their feet instead. Come only if you believe that it’s the powerless who are potent, the poor who are princes, the foolish who have real PhDs.
Am I insane enough to follow this Mad King? (Is insanity the new lucid?)
Look at the furrows burrowing her brow, her stretch-marked stomach under these hands of mud and breath, my foolish foolish heart. The air tastes like blood and beast; screaming, sweat and shit.
From the darkness of a virgin’s birth canal, there came a big and bursting light. God is born in straw and shadows with floating motes and the ongoing cry of cattle. And here I am to catch the slick, wet flesh of redemption; the fulfillment of dreams, hopes and prophecies. Is he surely Love made manifest? Or just another baby born to die?
There is just enough lunar light to see myself reflected in the amniotic fluid filling his eyes and I see . . . I see . . . I see me in him. And I look . . . I look . . . I look like a second heart beating in his tiny, eternal breast.
Even while I’m in all these pieces, it appears as though—and no matter what—I cannot get this Jesus; this act of bottomless Love out of me and this Jesus; this act of bottomless Love cannot be got out of me. We are two buffoons in adoration of each other, for better or for worse. We are one.
Oh, little Refugee from Ghettoville, dare I cut this cord that releases you into our care? Someday down the road we’ll crack you like an eggshell against a cross and you’ll pour out. Someday down the road we’ll go to war in your name, endeavor to wipe out different religions and races while we speak a cold and bold “Jesus told me so.”
Dare we release you into our care?
Dare we not?
We all know the cord was cut those thousands of years ago and Emmanuel, “God with us”, was released into our neighborhood.
And every Christmas I go back to the scene where it all started and ask once more: “Can I bear you again? Can I be your midwife, your mother, your wet nurse, your nanny—anyone; someone who will nurture the birth of Love on earth and goodwill toward all man?
And every Christmas I look in the mirror and I still see the mark of the Baby on my forehead; the mark of what it meant for God to come to us naked and small and defenseless; at our mercy and machinations—the way we turn him down, or nail him up, or create him in our own image, or close the door in the face of those who come to us in need.
There are no words left in me, so I wear my winter jacket and walk four blocks to the liquor store to buy a bottle of God’s blood; “Christ with a cork” writes Annie Dillard, then to the bakery for bread.
I’m having communion alone today.
I’m having communion because I find myself deliberately believing in this Love-crazed and wild pursuit of humanity, I want to be re-membered.
I’m having communion today because I agree with the early church when it said “God became man that we might become God.” Which is to say, we are the body that God is. And by “God”, I mean: Love. We are the body that Love is.
We are the body that Love is.
Maybe that’s all I know.