If I don’t write this down, it will get away from me.
The truth is that it is already slipping away . . . already becoming something different. Each time we put the pen to paper, words to experience, we capture and miss the thing altogether. That’s part of the human dilemma. Our best moments are beyond the reach of articulation: oral, written, otherwise. It has taken me some time to be at peace with this truth.
I was recently part of an innovative conference for leaders, creators, thinkers, dreamers–about 80 people from all over the U.S. (and a few other places) created 48 hours of space to think deeply; to discern what God was up to in their life: their life life, work life, family life, etc. Pastors, Silicon Valley CEO’s, writers, story-tellers, teachers, journalists, doctors came looking for something. Or Someone.
We learned about rest, creativity, story-telling, communication, confession, work, play, conflict, philosophy, Sabbath, how cultures change (and families and churches and individuals too). We learned about knowing, acting, and being the movement of God’s spirit as it is being unleashed in the world because of God’s decision to raise Jesus from the dead. Mostly we felt something that was beyond cognitive description. It was about resting in the deep awareness that God’s grace permeated the totality of creation: space, person, body, time . . . guacamole, pizza, beer. God’s grace in all things. Every moment laced with the magic of God’s beauty, and inherent goodness.
It was a really good conference. The only one I’ve ever recommended to friends. By ever, I mean ever.
And, then, we went surfing. My first time to do this thing Californians call “shredding the gnar bru bra!”-Exactly. I have no idea what it means but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean “Good luck.” I think it means, lean into it. Every moment. Be there. I was supposed to go surfing a few years ago with my father while were on a guys trip that spanned from Yosemite to Malibu but we chickened out when we saw the water temperature that day. Man was that a poor decision. Say “yes” as often as you can, right? “No” in the face of risk is often the beginning of death.
So, we went out, most of us having no clue what we were doing (other than realizing we were being ushered into the courtyards of the palace that is what some spiritual teachers call The Beginner’s Mind). The thing about surfing (or basketball or climbing or writing or whatever) is that it isn’t really about surfing. This is what I mean: 1) The harder you try the worse you are. It’s about relaxing, letting the wave carry you. Do you know how hard that is for someone like me? I love to be in control. I crave control. 2) 2 hours of surfing entails about 3 minutes of total surf time. It’s like baseball: 3 hours packed into 20 minutes of action. Most of the time you are “surfing” you are not, in fact surfing. You are swimming/paddling, spitting salt water out of your mouth, stretching a cramp, listening to your instructor, planning your next move. You can choose to be annoyed by all the non-surfing when you surf or you can embrace it was part of the larger whole. In the words of one writer/Christian teacher, “It wasn’t until I could see God in the kitchen and every day splendor of parenting that I could see God in the stadium, or on the big stage.” Read that last quote a few times. I thought about that as I floated waiting for my next attempt to catch a wave: thought about Kara, my boys, my work, my passions, my dreams. God. In. All. Things. Now that will wake someone from a slumber.
As we ended our time in the Pacific, I didn’t want to get out. I laid on top of the surf-board, sun beating down on my back, salt drying out the skin on my face, slight breeze falling over my head. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to press time-out (Like Zack used to do on Saved By the Bell). Why do moments like go so fast and others linger for so long? Find the answer to that and you will be a rich person. Yes, I just googled Saved By the Bell. Who am I?
As I walked back up the shore humbled (I was very very average), rested (water does that to you in a crazy way), I was eyes-wide-open awake. One person said, “You are fully alive right now, right?” I had this sense that my best days are ahead of me (Kara, Lucas, Finn too), that this is God’s story we’re living in, that it’s all gift, that the generosity of God is as close to us as we are to ourselves. If only we’d stop being so stingy and open our hands to receive.
So I opened my hands and received that moment as gift. Because I deserve none of it. And I love all of it.
Yes, I like THIS SONG even more now. It has saved my faith in the future of “Christian” worship.
Because it isn’t about being baptized once.
It’s about being baptized first so you can be baptized over and over and over and over again. To remember, time and time again, how good God is, how good it is to be alive, air in your lungs, blood in your body, guacamole and Dr. Pepper on your tongue.
Same with the bread and the wine of Judaism (passover) and Christianity (Eucharist). I have a friend, Chris, who talks about food as if it is part of heaven. Seriously, I can eat two steaks and if he called me to talk about food, I’d want to eat again. And you know what…I think he’s right. We don’t simply receive the Supper from a preacher or priest during a weekend religious service. We receive it at the dinner table with our family, in a dingy hut in Uganda as a young mother offers you (literally) everything she has, in an East Nashville restaurant as friends pour out their deepest dreams and fears. We receive the grace of the thing over and over and over. God’s grace never stops; it is oozing out of the very fabric of creation.
And we keep receiving until we are unable. Which, when that comes, we will no longer need anything. It was about surfing but it wasn’t –at all–about surfing. It was–as are all moments, people, places–about God, who is in all, ahead of us, waiting for us to experience all that is to come, even if in this life it is only in small hints, tokens, foreshadow.
I’m told that some Benedictine monks sleep in their coffin every night. This helps them bodily remember that they are dying, that they were “dust and to dust they shall return” . . . I guess a sticky note on the bathroom medicine cabinet isn’t sufficient. They need the actual coffin in their room. Every night. Dying so that they might live another day.
If I’d had a coffin with me the night following my surfing adventure, I think I would have glimpsed what these Benedictine monks are learning: You only get one life to be a Jesus-follower, husband/wife, parent, friend, artist, story-teller, athlete–why hold anything back? Why let fear of death, or death itself anchor you to a lie that isn’t real?
Why not pursue God in everything you do, in all you are, in every place you find yourself . . . and see what happens? What else is there, really?