I still have these mornings where I wake up and see with great clarity that I truly am but a tenant on this earth, a drifter, a sojourner, a man in search of a home that is still very far away.
I don’t deny that much of my distance from my true home comes from my own errant nature. For me to say that I was knocked off course by this or that decision some older person made when I was still a child is to ignore the obvious flaws that were in me from either the beginning or a time close to it.
I have done my due dilligence in trying to ascertain why or how I came to have such a strong, errant nature attached to an otherwise sound mind and spirit. In my moments of extended solitude, this nature tends to evaporate unless I consciously and actively feed it.
I can’t say as I have the most perfect vision yet of what home looks like, but I think it is something akin to a monastery that is mostly surrounded by nature. I live simply, with only the Bible and a few other books. I take much time for prayer, contemplation and worship, and possess only a few robes. The politics of the community are kept to a minimal, dull roar, because all of my fellow monks are busying themselves with remaining connected with God, and solving their own particular problems. This community may or may not be multi-gendered. I like to think that if we all have reached a certain point in our self development, we are simply past getting at each other to satisfy sexual needs. Of course, a community of only men wouldn’t necessarily be the sole preventative of sexual diversion, either.
But, the overall perfect home or life for me is clearly not one of living in downtown Manhattan, perhaps in a half billion dollar condo near Central Park, with unlimited resources to do as I please–eating, drinking and traveling without any thought for the morrow. This is the false idol life, that beckons to the tiny bit of the errant me who continues to reside like a dormant virus, waiting to be awakened by trigger words and stress.
What’s more, I have given up the concept of finding friends while I am here at seminary. I can see that I am very much cut from a different sort of cloth than the other people here. While we all share a vocation to spiritual formation and ministry of some sort, most of the people here are still very much in the world. They love their Bacon t-shirts (ironic or otherwise), Harry Potter, Star Trek, and other pop culture items–sports, music, whatever entertainment and material offerings that are handed to them. I confess that when I pause to indulge myself on even something like a TV series or jazz music, I am more likely entertaining the errant self who has gotten the better of me.
Where I probably need to do the most work is around not coming across as an angry, rigid or bitter person when I am most fully realizing my true self. I tend to take on an attitude of judgement of those who are still caught up in the world, and I suppose that’s no way to really change anyone, if changing people is even supposed to be part of the mission.
I need to be completely honest with myself in saying that I am still caught up at least somewhat in the need to receive validation for being a man relEt to my culture. For concrete examples, my relentless reading of the news to stay abreast of what people are talking about, my vain attempts to regrow hair and take pills that claim to bring out the color in it again, the clothes I purchase, the running to stay in shape and not be old and fat, etc.
I have these moments of clarity where I can see the problems of others quite clearly even as mine remain mostly obscured. Problems like the fact that people who protest the many unjustices in our system are still very much caught up in it, enjoying aspects of it and benefiting greatly from it. There appears to be this pattern with a lot of people whose lives I’ve been able to get some glimpse into–they get riled up about an injustice, post an angry rant of Facebook or a blog, perhaps they write a letter to a congressperson or make a donation, then they are distracted by some other shiny thing that they like and forget about the issue that made them mad until it riles them up again in a few weeks, months or years. This seems to be the pattern with the general populace as well–every four years we get riled up about how shitty things are, vote for the candidate who we think will change everything, watch that candidate change very little and if they aren’t the candidate we voted for, we rant about how terrible that person is, but mostly, we go back to our lives of being consumers and positioning our living around our stomachs and bodies for the next few years before we get mad and remember again how shitty things are for a lot of people.
I can honestly say that this is me.
I like the idea of being less materialistic, and then I feel the need to buy more books or a new computer or gadget or something else that catches my eye. I like the idea of saving money by not eating out as much, but then the walls of my dwelling start to close in on me, and I start to feel the need to be out at least one night a week surrounded by strangers eating overpriced food and drinking beer.
My errant self is deeply and irrevocably attached to my stomach and my sexuality. I say irrevocably because only God can remove the errant self and transform me.
My errant self cares deeply about my precious ego. He/she wants me to be a somebody. This self is endlessly obsessed with the concept of me needing to leave behind a body of work of some substance, so that the world will at least remember and love me posthumously, if not while I am alive.
I need to stop caring about these things. There is a lot of happiness, joy and peace that can come from not caring about these things. I have beaten this notion to death–that nobody is really remembered at all after they die. Only a few names are remembered after a few generations, and what is remembered about them is never the whole and complete person–just some trivia about them or name on a sign or building.
The strong urge to discover a welcoming and accepting community while on this earth has been utterly misguided and misappropriated by my errant self. The truth is, once you start to have extended periods of time where you deeply crave a stronger and more meaningful relationship with God, you become less and less of this world. You no longer are able to keep up with the pace of the world and the things that it values highly. Therefore, any effort to insert yourself into a community will fail by some degree.
Maybe it was just my pride, but I felt so little desire to spend time watching football games just to have something to talk about with people up in Waco. The amount of time commitment to such a pointless activity seemed absurd. I could be reading books that furthered my spiritual development, walking out in nature or even just sitting and contemplating God’s goodness. A prerequisite for becoming at least marginally liked by members of an American community is to keep up with national, collegiate and local football. It may be a good thing that prevents people from otherwise disparate backgrounds from tearing each other’s throats out, but football in my estimation has become more of an idol than a light diversion for most people.
I don’t think there will be much football happening when I come home. There might be some moments of levity where lighter activities take place, but I think the overwhelming desire to be connected with God’s love and stay focused on it will override desires for such distractions.