Thursday, 13 March 2014

Waists, doorknobs, and the occasional dog.

A permanently downward gaze marks my journeys into the dreamscape. I always think I know who is standing next to me, but when I think back I can never know for sure.

 I see no faces, only waists and doorknobs and the occasional dog.

Lewis wrote a book about this - Till We Have Faces, right?

I always seem to know where I am. Last night it was an intersection next to the post office in my hometown. Not long later it was Park Street, downtown Boston.

But there is no sidewalk, or that traffic light there, at home. And why doesn't the car I'm driving have a windshield?

And this shop is in Beverly, not downtown Boston.

And why is Panera Bread an apartment complex?

These thoughts rumble around in the fog and don't become conscious until later. In the journey, all things seem completely the way they're supposed to be. No questions asked.

Do the people in my dreams have downward gazes too?

I don't think they do. They seem pretty confident and upright. They talk without listening very well. In fact, I rarely feel 'heard,' or at all acknowledged, by anyone in my dreams.

I wonder if that's all an illusion. Maybe their heads are down too. How could I know the difference? Maybe they aren't heard by me either.

And so we walk with purpose, down streets that are both familiar and unfamiliar.

The faux-familiarity is a security measure on my part. It lets me know that there's no need to stand up straight. There's no need to look beyond the waists or the doorknobs or the occasional dog. They are all I need.

Now, I'm sitting at a library computer translating some Hebrew from Nehemiah. This is not dreamscape. I double-checked, I just looked Ryan in the eye.

Oh Nehemiah, you silly old man. You keep sneaking up on me, still after all these years.

Nehemiah just heard the news of the break-down of Jerusalem. And he wept. He prayed. He mourned. And he 'prayed to the face of God.'

Face to face. Like Moses, really. Naked, vulnerable. Weeping and broken.

I set some valuable object down by a lamp-post, somewhere between Park Street and Panera Bread. I just leave it at a lamppost. Why in the world? It was not cheap. It'll get stolen.

I'm rather reckless in my dreams.

We get to Panera Bread. We find a table.

'I'd better go get what I left behind,'

I pass a hallway of apartments. I know because they have apartment-like doorknobs.

A dog greets me on my way down the stairs - don't ask me where the stairs came from, they weren't there before.

I tighten my belt.

I'm scared. What if it's stolen? 

I run down the street.

What's the purpose of an anchor? It's a security measure. When the tide wants to take you out to sea, you can be confident because you left insurance that you won't go anywhere.

I think that valuable object was like an anchor. An excuse to not leave my world. An excuse not to sit down with this friend over coffee. That would require sitting face to face. I would have to give up my view of waists, doorknobs, and the occasional dog.

There's always a way out.  Always an exit strategy.

 I always have to give myself something to be afraid of. I plant the seeds of my own panic, to prevent standing face to face.

I do the same with God, I'm sure. How often do I stand before Him face to face, like Nehemiah? He gets a mask, while my gaze remains downward - a gaze wrapped up in piety: prayers for others, events, things, the future. But rarely standing face to face, vulnerable.

Relationships are a dialectic of sorts. We want to have faces. We want to be seen, naked, without masks. But somehow, we find ourselves often unable to lift our gaze. We don't want to see someone else's face. We leave them waiting for faces. And so we push and pull and play this crazy war of espionage. How could they not stop and listen to us? How could they not hear our screaming?

This is where resentment grows. We want to know and be known. But we fail at both.

Waists and doorknobs and the occasional dog are so much easier to face, than an actual face. The world of waists, doorknobs, and the occasional dog may not have much to offer - but it's safe. It's so beautifully safe.

Babies go through a period in their development where they have not yet realized that things and people exist even when they aren't looking at them. Eventually we mature past that point. But maybe there's something still legitimate about that deep-seated sentiment.

We are not fully real without being known and seen. This whole creation exists only by the intentional work and gaze of God. A God who is nothing if He is not in relationship in the Trinity - knowing, seeing, gazing upon one another's faces.

Night has melded into waking day. Coffee has been drunk, a meeting conducted, 5 lines of homework completed.


Still running. Passing so many people on the street. 

So many emails need to be written.

Still running. Relief, contentment, apathy. 

I'm hungry.

'Look up, son.'

His head is bowed down, looking down from the cross. He had to go up there to get me to look up. And He found me. Here is my soul, in the world of waists, doorknobs, and the occasional dog - known, loved, gazed upon. My safe spaces weren't safe enough.

'Look up, son.'

How did you find me here?

(photo credit: Kaydbe on Flickr

I knew I'd disappoint you

If I showed to you this child

Who is crying out inside me
Lost in the wild

But how did you find me here?

(See: David Wilcox, How Did You Find Me Here?)

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