Most of the Time
So many of our stories hold onto us longer than we'd want. As we face resurrection day, we must remind ourselves that the loss of the old life and the rising of the new is not license for amnesia. Being made-new in Christ doesn't mean forgetting the past. It means remembering it in light of what we now know to be true. All our stories are vague generalities--most-of-the-times--which we inflict on every new day that rises. Resurrection Day (Easter) is the reminder that there is an "all of the time" story which doesn't erase, but re-interprets the most-of-the-times we are so busy remembering. Maybe yours sound a bit like these...
- He was seven years old, the middle child of an odd number of children, though so there were so many of them he couldn’t remember the count. He was wily and spry, creative and troublesome. He sat in corners parsing strands of his father’s workyard rope, he stole jelly beans from the gas station from time to time. He was writing stories with his mind, phantasmagoric ones where he slayed dragons, reigned down fire on demons, exacted revenge on monstrosities which bore the vague resemblance of his older sisters. He was writing stories with his life, learning how to trick folks into believing he was up to nothing. Finding out what made people smile, made them wince and made them—most importantly—do what he wanted. The chapters of his life were rolling out under his feet. Chapters which would seem to define him in all the years to come, most of the time.
- She was fourteen going on fifty, the only child of a threadbare mother who was stretched like dairy-free butter spread across gluten-free bread. Leaving crumbles of vegetable oil fats and ground-up ancient grains. She liked to hide in the shower stall with her friend and drink wine coolers. She was smart, wicked, wicked-smart and aware that no one she knew knew her, thank the gods—if such things existed. Boys wanted to reach out and touch her. She would have none of that. Not yet, anyway. It wasn’t that she was looking for “the one.” She just figured once she got into all that touching boys business she was going to do it her way or no way and she hadn’t yet figured out what her way was yet. She would; give her time. She was writing stories with her life, learning how to appear shy when really she wanted to shout. Finding out that smart didn’t wear well on poor girls whose moms had been thrice married, but inappropriately sexy worked ok. The chapters of her life were rolling out under her feet. Chapters which would seem to define her in all the years to come, most of the time.
- He was forty years old, too old now to wear sleeveless shirts, but he didn’t particularly care. It was probably about time to leave for the middle school soccer match across town which clarioned for his diminished attention, but ex-wives with their demands and part-time sons with their needs for acknowledgement wore weary on life. He would rather go on a walk through the park to see if he could grab some attention for all the bicep and shoulder work he’d been doing. No one is too old for sleeveless shirts, just too ugly. He had worked very hard to not be ugly. He was writing stories with his life and some of them unseemly. He had shouted and thrown things when she found out about his work friends who were more than friends. He was learning how to talk about divorce like a liberation and to make the perfect protein recovery shake. He was finding out how to seem gentle instead of sly, winsome instead of conniving, magnanimous instead of thwarting and cruel. The chapters of his life were rolling out under his feet. Chapters which would seem to define him in all the years to come, most of the time.
- She was fifty going on fourteen, religion suited her well, though no one in her five decades of life could explain why. The conferences, the books, the podcasts, the where the symphonic wind which lifted her off the past’s dusty ground. Her husband was not fond of her protestations about prayer and Bible reading and the like, her sons resentful of their Sunday nights at Teens for Christ. Of course, they didn’t understand how all of these things, these accoutrements of her personally constructed renovation were essential to drown out the noise. She woke in the night with memories of the past and all the wrongs, the wrongs done to her and the wrongs she’d done. Sin was the past though the cacophonous noise of its shame echoed present still. She was writing stories with her life, learning how to forget, how to move on, how drag along anyone she could into the pristine chapel of her future. She was finding out that the noise of religion could drown out the noise of regret in all the moments except the middle of the night, but for that there was Valerian Root. The chapters of her life were rolling under her feet. Chapters which would seem to define her in all the years to come, most of the time.
Vignettes like these are not our stories—yours and mine—except when they are, the details change but the spirit of the narrative remains the same. We wake in the morning and feel as though we are this yarn-ball mess of aging mistakes, tired old patterns, exercises in rejuvenated narcissism. We spend decades trying to get over things, beat them back into the past. We tear out old chapters, write new ones as if the old hadn’t happened. Hit the reset button… again and again and again. We wonder how it might be that anything gets any better and are reminded by Oprah or Instagram or The New Yorker (all one in the same) that it doesn’t do well to dwell on the past, there are herbal non-GMO remedies for that.
It’s time to get practical we say. Get new jobs, work a little harder, go on vacation, smile more (its scientifically proven to be the same as being happy); fake it til you make it. When we make it we can be motivational speakers or bloggers or life coaches (all one in the same).
What we miss in all this flailing about is that the chapters of our lives, like Horcruxes, though torn out with a piece of soul in it, cannot be left for dead. All the stories matter. We’ve told them and untold to ourselves so many times in so many ways that we think we know what happened, when in fact all we know is what we think happened and how we felt about it which is sort of like saying I know the Bachelor by watching the rose ceremony.
May I suggest an alternative? May I suggest that at the center of time, in the center of the world is a man, a Messiah, King, healer, warrior, handy-Man, God who handles stories a little differently than we. We who live by the language of regret and reset knows not these tongues. He speaks in the street language of people who live by the gutter and can’t get into graduate school. His comrades are dock workers, Tony Soprano, Benedict Arnold and the kids from Newsies. He’s chased across the countryside from coast to coast by demanders of healings and exorcisms. Like Miracle Max looming over Wesley, he stands over the daughters of seminarians and declares them only mostly dead and then brings her a sandwich. While most of history has written him as a pharmaceutical-grade cure for hell and guilt, He is more interested in knowing than fixing, Embracing than pushing. Understanding than undoing. Stories are written about Him, more—they say—than the whole world can contain and with His Life He is writing stories. He is teaching us to sew back in the chapters, view the protoganists in our tales as beloved children. He is reframing enemies as friends, irreparable damage as inconsequential opportunity. He is making all the stories new. He is telling us that the chapters rolling out under our feet cannot and will not define us. He is the Most High of the Time which trumps all of our shoulda, woulda, coulda, most of the times. He is the narrative we are written into and He is writing Himself into ours. Our torn-out tales are saved and scrapbooked in as meaningful prologue of chapters not written.
The past is finished with you, He says. But we are not finished with the past. The stories we tell ourselves and the chapters we’ve been walking on will be regraded, scraped back, and rewritten, be told again by this Man. The glory relighting the old dark lands. The water requenching the dried out deserts of old days.
Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
- He was seven years old. He was creative, the best kind of wild. He was one of many siblings and just beyond his present awareness, he was radically loved all of the time.
- She was fourteen years old. She was beautiful, wise beyond her years, demanding of worth. She would not sell herself short and just beyond the burning lustful eyes which seemed to surround her, was the face of radical love, all of the time.
- He was forty years old. Healthy, energetic and full of youthful vigor. Just below the shallows of his attempts to be seen, he was radically known, recognized and loved, all of the time.
- She was fifty years old. Loyal, inquisitive, awakened to a world beyond the mundane. She was running toward the future to escape the shame of the past. Beyond her awareness in every guilt-ridden story she was not alone, she was not lost, she was fully embraced by radical love, all of the time.