Sunday, February 5, 2012

Not My Usual Post

You know when you are deep in thought, and your mind is racing with so many words that you are sure you could write a book of epiphanies that would change the lives of millions, and then you hear a message or read an excerpt that feels and sounds so close to the thoughts that have been spinning through your mind that you are left centered, and energized, and thankful, and compelled to love well, and forgive deeply, and laugh hard, and enjoy your day more than the minute before, and believe in a God that controls the moments that are too divine to be a coincidence...that happened to me this morning.

Here is the excerpt from Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist that propelled this very moment in me:

Shalom is about God, and about the voice and spirit of God blowing through and permeating all the dark corners that we've chopped off, locked down. It's about believing, and letting belief move you to forgive. It's about grace, and letting grace propel you into action. It's about the whole of our lives becoming woven through with the sacred spirit of God, through friendship and confession, through rest and motion, through marriage and silence. 

Shalom is the act of life lifting up and becoming an act of worship and celebration, a sacrament, an offering. It's about living in a world of movie theaters and shoes and highways and websites, and finding those things to be shot through with the same spirit and divinity and possibility that we see in ourselves. It's living with purpose and sacrifice and intention, willing to be held to the highest, narrowest possible standard of goodness, and in the same breath finding goodness where most people see nothing but dirt.

I have been surprised to find that I am given more life, more hope, more moments of buoyancy and redemption, the more I give up. The more I let go, do without, reduce, the more I feel rich. The more I let people be who they are, instead of cramming them into what I need from them, the more surprised I am by their beauty and depth. 

When we can manage to live this way of shalom, even for a moment, we pull each other toward something bigger, wider, more beautiful, because left to my own devices, chances are, I will spiral down until life is nothing more than the mildew smell on my kitchen towels and the guilt I feel about all the things I thought I'd be. 

The truest thing, it seems, is the biggest: the big idea of making a life with God, with honor, with honesty and community and beauty and the fragile delicate recipe of those, searching for the place where they all come together, where hope and struggle and beauty and tears swirl together into the best, brightest moments of life. That's what I believe about God. 

I believe life is a bottle rocket, a celebration, and it requires everything we have, and it demands that we battle through fear and resentment, and it demands that we release our need to be the best, the prettiest, the most perfect and together, because the big thing, the forceful beautiful thing is happening already, all around us, and we might miss it if we're too busy meeting our parents' expectations or winning awards. 

Shalom is happening all around us, but it never happens on its own. The best things never do happen on their own, and shalom is the very best thing. In the same way that forgiveness never feels natural until after its down, and hope always feels impossible before we commit to it, in the same way that taking is easier than giving, and giving in is easier than getting up, in the same way shalom never happens on its own. 

It happens when we do the hardest work, the most secret struggle, the most demanding truth telling. In those moments of ferocity and fight, peace is born. Shalom arrives, and everything is new. And when you've tasted it, smelled it, fought for it, labored it into life, you'll give your soul to get a little more, and it is always worth it.