Response Ability

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Last night before I went to bed I was reading a chapter of The Shack where Mack is talking with God about the difference between living a life based on dead flat principles versus a life living expectantly in God.

Papa says:
"Religion must use law to empower itself and control the people who they need in order to survive. I give you an ability to respond and your response is to be free to love and serve in every situation, and therefore each moment is different and unique and wonderful. Because I am your ability to respond, I have to be present in you. If I simply gave you a responsibility, I would not have to be with you at all. It would now be a task to perform, an obligation to be met, something to fail."

Further on:
"But," argued Mack, "if you didn't have expectations and responsibilities, wouldn't everything just fall apart?"

"Only if you are of the world, apart from me and under the law. Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment, and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis of identity and value. You know well what it is like not to live up to someone's expectations."

"Boy, do I!" Mack mumbled. "It's not my idea of a good time." He paused briefly, a new thought flashing through his mind. "Are you saying you have no expectations of me?"

Papa now spoke up. "Honey, I've never placed an expectation on you or anyone else. The idea behind expectations requires that someone does not know the future or outcome and is trying to control behavior to get the desired result. Humans try to control behavior largely through expectations. I know you and everything about you. Why would I have an expectation other than what I already know? That would be foolish. And beyond that, because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me."


So if life is more open and expansive than we think, more geared to us living out our life within God rather than living according to a set of principles, then our lives would look very different from each other. We would each be doing things that set us apart from the pack. Could we handle that? Western democracies depend on herd mentalities. Stepping out of the herd to follow God requires a bit of courage, but I think it's well worth the ensuing discomfort.

I went to the tennis today. Sat at Kooyong in the hot summer sun for five hours and thought about how toey I feel. The dreams of the vegetable-oil-powered campervan are running hot right now. My auntie is planning to do that herself later on in the year when she retires - it must run in the family. It would be nice to meet up with her in Manangatang or Cape Tribulation :)

And so I was thinking about this long-held dream I've had, and how entirely frivolous it has seemed for so long. How terribly irresponsible to want to spend time - a month, six months, a year, 10 years - driving aimlessly around doing whatever pops up. Writing stuff. Selling a few articles here and there. Having a wireless internet connection :) The bestest dream (and a most difficult one, too, at times. But I'd have lots of good blog post fodder :) It makes my mouth water.

But it doesn't seem so particularly irresponsible to me anymore. Sure, there are issues of why and how I want to do that. Running away is surely a part of it. But so is running to. So is having adventures. My friend Jane lived in a cave in Spain for a year. Driving around the same country (but 2 cultures) isn't quite as out-there as living in a cave for a year, but still - I'd love to do it. Join the great Church of the Homeless :) Find other people on adventures.

So today I told God that I really, really want to do this :) The thought terrifies and exhilarates me. Absolutely. I would do it; I really would. I would go off in a campervan by myself around Australia. I just would. So maybe I'd get murdered but dammit if I don't feel like living my little life in suburbia is just murder by small degrees anyway.

So that's my dream that I would do if a great wad of money fell out of the sky. What would you do, if it wasn't considered "irresponsible"? If you weren't living under the great Western squashiness of expectation and responsibility that makes us all look exactly the same? Tell me ...

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