Sunday, 4 January 2009

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

I read this familiar verse from Galatians over at Kent's place this morning. It really smacked me between the eyes today. I love Peterson's translation of this. The emphasis on ego in the living as law men or women. The horrid, ugly urge to be seen to appear to have your bag of shit together. The contortions that result. The denial we live in when we insist on life being the way we insist on it being, rather than on what it is. The sad distance that is placed between us and everybody else when we have to contrive a "no go" zone so that others don't see who we really are. So they don't reject us. I think Him who they pierced might have a few edifying approaches to that little dilemma. I am so not there yet. But I'm looking, noting, pondering.

I also love the way Peterson describes this sentence:
The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God ...

The NIV version reads thusly:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me
I lived with a certain sort of unease for many years in my early Christian life. This verse had me confused. I was already a person well-versed in repressing my stuff and living outside of my own body. I stuffed it with alcohol and men as a teenager and with marijuana in my twenties. When I read this verse, what I read was that I needed to continue being abdicated from my own body and my own feelings and my own emotions because this was a good thing. Now that Christ lived in me, I need to put myself aside. This was how I knew to put myself aside in the past. It was the way I devised to cope with things. And so I just automatically translated my way of doing it to what God must mean.

But now, I feel like I see this verse completely 180 degrees around the other way. Because Christ lives in me, I don't need to put myself aside. I am not a shameful thing that I need to live outside of myself. At least, not in the way that I was doing. And yet, in another way, yes, in the way that I was doing. How mixed up and tangled it all is. No wonder it takes years to untangle these giant wool balls, and we scream and rant and rail in the middle of it all.

That part of me that had to appear righteous to everybody else, that big fat shame smear laid on with a 500 centimetre trowel, had to go. But it can't go with nothing else to replace it. It can't go until there is something real for you to hang on to. The God-That-Sends-You-To-Hell God is not safe enough to hang on to. The God-That-Is is. This hanging on to doesn't feel anywhere near as tangible as I would like. And yet. Somehow, over the days and months and years I have come from where I was when I first believed this passage would mean choosing death to the place where I can see that I don't lose anything in this exchange. That takes a bloody long time to come to that place.

I have long ago left behind the idea of a small god who cannot stand to be with us in the midst of our shit and our horridness and our fucked-up mess. How is it we have distorted Christianity so much that this is what people see? Thank God that things are changing. Because a God who despises and demeans and shames is not any kind of a god but some kind of a demon. How could we live with such a god? Maybe if we were a bit more perfect than we are we could handle it better. Maybe if we saw further than we see in our blindness we could deal with such a god. But we - we are far too massively fucked-up to have a god like that. That god is the god of our projections.

The reality of these verses for me now is that I find myself in this safe place where admitting my mishaps (well, to a certain degree, anyway) is not something I need to force out of me. It doesn't ever feel good, obviously, but I can admit my faults (sometimes with a deal of prodding) because I don't have any vested interest anymore in holding onto an illusory projection of myself, even though that is a scary idea, even though I feel far too vulnerable sometimes, even though I close myself up in my house too often. It's a process, right? I keep expecting myself to get from A to F without going through B to E and I'm tired of living with these ridiculous expectations.

I was talking to my dear blog friend Manuela yesterday about some issues, and she said to me, "I will stand behind you whatever decision you make." And the fresh wind just blew in, you know? The freedom to fuck up. The freedom to be a mess. And yet also, the freedom to be safe, too, and to impose limits. The freedom to have defining walls between me and other people and to say no when I need to. The freedom to be only halfway there to being able to do that, and the amazing, wonderful sense of calm in myself to be able to allow myself to be imperfect, messed up, half formed. I have barely been able to do that in the past, in any great way that involves other people. There have been a few people I have been blessed to have in my life that I have been able to be that way with.

That's what the life lived in Christ is like. It's not about being performing seals. It is laughable that we would ever think we could maintain that sort of fucked-up sideshow. This bag is for real. He is in it for real. Right in the middle. Right there in the dark.

I love this song. Sometimes I sing it to myself as a lullaby :) I don't like the "just do your best, do everything you can" thang though. I'm too close to 20th century Christianity to hear that as anything other than negative ;)


  1. it's so wonderful watching what is happening.

    And yes, that is a fun song.

  2. Aw hon, thank you so so much. Just what I needed tonight. ((Hug)) Can I be you when I grow up?

  3. Kent - might be wonderful watching, but it's a pain in the arse living it

    Erin - no. I want to be me when I grow up! :) Thanks for this. I was looking for reasons to delete this post, as usual :)

  4. Colostomy bags can help keep your shit together.

    Paul describes exchanging one set of rules for another - the law of Christ, which is an even shittier law to keep.

    I don't have to impress anyone either, and I don't bother with faith - the best of both worlds.

    Paul had an ego problem because he was a repressed homosexual who didn't have a partner to nag at him.

    End of lesson.

  5. PS: Is that what this sounded like, a lesson? Maybe I will delete this post then :)

  6. "... the law of Christ, which is an even shittier law to keep"


    Define the law of Christ. I don't even know what that is, Dave. Do you mean bearing one another's burdens? That sounds like the kind of law I could handle living under.

  7. I came back to watch the video again because something nagged me about it. I love the "don't have to be like everyone else" imagery at the end, because I've done that. I've looked around and thought, wait, what the hell am I doing? I am not this person, don't want to be this person, why do I think because everyone else is like this that I have to be like this? I'm trying to become aware earlier of that when I feel it. Because for a person who has low self esteem, being like everyone else is the default...which is why I have been at war with my inner type 4 most of my life. Because my 4 says NOT to be like ANYONE else.

    It feels so good to get back in touch with that, a little at a time, every day.

  8. Something nags me about that video too in an annoying way, but I'm not sure what it is. But then I get annoyed at myself for intellectualising too much about a bloody 3 minute song :) I love the energy of this song.

    I prsume you are talking abut enneagrams? I did an online test the other week and I am a 4 as well :) The individualist. It was actually pretty close. I want to read more about it.

    That is an amazing thing to be back in touch with, as terrifying as it is. I hug you. ((Hug))


  9. We've talked about the 4 before...about a year ago, and apparently before that. We of short memory!

    Anyhow I'm a 4, yes, though I only started testing that way about a year ago. Before that I was a 9, the chameleon...because I didn't know who the hell I was. Not that I know now, but I think I'm closer to knowing.

    But I loved finding out you are a lefty...haha. Makes sense to me.

  10. LOL. I love having such a bad memory. I get to rediscover things again and again and again. LOL :) That's funny. Thanks for making me laugh.

    Yeah, I'm a 4. Can you tell by my latest "none of you bastards understand me" post? :)

    Yes, well, us lefties are a breed all our own, dontchareckon? I read a study somewhere that said left handed people on average are 10% smarter than the general population but that we die 10% earlier from the stress of living in a right-handed world. Which is fine with me, cause I only write with my left hand but do everything else with my right :)

    Thanks for reminding me about the enneagram test. It's good to know I scored the same this year as last year, even if I don't remember taking the test. What a doofus :)

  11. I do a lot of things right handed and I can write legibly right handed, but I imagine that is a coping skill rather than true ambidexterity.

    And yes, well it rang a bell because I was like...wait, I already knew Sue was a 4, how the hell did I know that? Not having that much confidence in my telepathic abilities, I figured we must have talked about it before. So I searched for it.

  12. This song is going through my head again this morning. I think the thing I don't like about it (here I am intellectualising about music lyrics again. Sue, pleeeeze go and do something useful!)

    Anywya, what was I saying? That's right. I don't like the line, "It's only in your head you feel left out, and looked down on." Because how do you know? I'm sure somewhere you are left out, because someone doesn't like you or whatever. I'm sure somewhere someone is looking down on you. This feels like living in fantasy land, to say that everything is only in your head.

    That's all. Im going away to have a life now, and stop contemplating silly things. I'm gonna go check out my navel now :)

  13. I agree, that line bothers me too. Maybe they are speaking to a specific circumstance rather than a generalization...because sometimes we are only left out in our heads. Not always, but sometimes. And sometimes, at least for me, I egg it on in my head....assuming I'm left out or feeling left out when I'm really not. Then I make a total fool of myself, at least inside my head when I find out I was never really left out to begin with. Because our minds are weird things.

    I dunno.


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