when she completes me, which i will say without apology

by Preston

completes me

It’s in the way she looks

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at me, when we are balanced on the curve of the earth at the bend in the road halfway home; it’s in the pauses, the held breath before saying the hard thing that falls heavy between us; it’s in the fluidity of her limbs when she dances, free and wild and unashamed. It, the hard-to-define somethingness of her, the fierce beauty that tangles me in hope and reminds me of what it means to want for grace. What I am telling you is a fairly simple thing, but I have read more than once that it is a source of controversy: my fiancée completes me.

I am not fully myself without her. I wasn’t fully myself until I met her. I am not fully myself when she is not with me and when I am next to her I discover the parts of myself I love most.

I cannot tell you if this will be true for you. I cannot tell you if your singleness or your not singleness will be where you will find the fullness of who you are, but I can tell you that for me I found it in her. For if I believe the poet, and I’m want to, to love another person is to see the face of God. And in her face I see God; I see the wild and intoxicating love for all things that makes her the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, the woman who reminds me to love wild, too, who teaches me the patience of redemptive work.

I am not one for tabulations, for formulas, for mantras about when real life starts and stops or at what point you must have found yourself in order to have truly found yourself, as if we are these detached souls and bodies groping the darkness for ourselves. Maybe this would have come for me some other way, by some burning bush in a mountain cleft or in a whisper of wind, but God willed in my life that it come with her, chaotically enchanting and radiating hope, awakening in me the desire to wonder after the mysteries of this cosmos.

She is poetry in motion.

And do I believe that this means we’ll never face the turbulent waters or that we are the exception, divine and set apart that will never know trouble? Of course not. And of course yes. On the one hand you have to maintain that fierce knowledge that trouble always comes but on the other hand you also have to have that wild and impossible hope, I think, that it really is you two against the world. Or not. Not quite. Because she looks at me and reminds me that God is never against the world, so neither can we be.

What I hope you find, what I hope you have found, what I cannot tell you by what means you will come to know it but that it is a work of God, is the kind of impossible love that pierces you to the core of your doubt and your worry and your insecurity and draws forth the very parts of you that most desperately need to be freed. It’s too short a life to live ensnared by the tangles of our own making.

She completes me; I say this without apology.

It may not be true of you. You may be the one who finds burning bushes or whisper wind or a myriad other ways in which God comes into the middle of your being and says, “This is who you are. This is what I have named you. This is how I have called you.”

But for me? It’s her.

What I can tell you is this: when you have found it, when you have crossed the threshold of clarity where your self is made known to you, you never want anything else. It is the closest you will have ever felt to God.

image credit: Danny Ebersole

when i measure the distance of God

by Preston

iCoffee

I wake to the incessant chatter of my phone, abandoned the night before. I have forgotten to turn it silent, to do not disturb. I have woken too early, in the thin hours of morning, and I count the crack-veins along the ceiling as I measure the weight of sleep I will spend if I get up now. Body slumps against the rising, thin hours resurrection as feet plant to carpet and press firm like roots. There’s a ghost of sleep lying behind me that traces a hand up my back as I rise.

I make coffee by practiced pace, left hand to left cabinet and right to canister. I have memorized the measure of the two between my arms as I have memorized the measure of my feet to that carpet or the arc of my body rising in the thin hours.

The grinder is the first noise of offense in the morning. Well, perhaps the phone was. The grinder sputters up into a whir of dancing ideas gutted and repulsed and blurred as the aroma presses out into the measure between body and machine like incense prayers in apocalypse.

As coffee brews I thumb the book shelf for the commentary on Genesis. It is from the series I am reading and has the page that is marked all over from the day I sat in the waiting room and she asked the doctor that one question that worried us but stilled us and I coped by underlining every last word about the primordial cosmos, the measure of matter to God.

My mug is filled half at first with a splash of cream — this I have long believed makes it count as breakfast.

I occupy a couch in the living room with the long windows that watch the sun in its rising, measure of celestial death to earth, as the thin hours ripple and glide into morning. I drink deep and slow, open the book, settle in.

I cannot measure for you the distance of God in that moment. I cannot, like the theologian was once said to do, throw finger down on the lectern and say, “Here. Here God is not.” I have no capacity to measure the space of divine between atoms and molecules or infinitesimal distances between objects and the contextual deception of distance. The sun to the earth and the body to the grinder and the ghost to my back is measurable but perceived. What is the distance of God? Is God right here, right beside me? Would I know it if that were true?

Do atoms, with their infinite smallness, known the distance between them and the next atom, even though to us this distance seems so minute?

I wonder if it is the same with us and God?

I wonder if Jesus in Mama Mary makes God too close for comfort and yet also too far away.

This is not the sort of post you share, I don’t think. This is not the sort of post that can be measured well because it has no viability. It is a confession of the present.

I am realizing these days that I too quickly experience a measure of God and rush to these spaces of online depository to plant them, reap out of harvest, and never wait to see what could have grown.

Today I measured the distance of God. Today on this couch in this room in this space between earth and celestial death I measured. But I will not tell you the answer.

Not yet.

It’s a relative answer, anyway.

*Photo by jpoesen, Creative Commons via Flickr. 

when God is not threatened by a dry martini

by Preston

Martini

I

My editor calls on a Wednesday to talk about my drinking.

I’m sitting in the cafe off the corner of the museum I used to walk through midsummer, the one with the Rothko canvases that tower in silence. There’s flatbread on the table, covered in diced figs and gorgonzola, a glass of merlot as bodied as the pink-tinged clouds overhead. The notebook beside holds a half-scribbeled thought, a post that may or may not be about the fierceness of grace and the quietness of God in the work.

“We’re concerned about the dry martini.” My editor.

He is referring to the first page of my memoir, where I make mention of sitting at a table with a friend years ago; it was the sort of night where you do things like drink dry martinis. It sets the tone, gives you perspective — like that cafe near the museum, that flatbread, that merlot, that notebook.

“Why?”

“We’re concerned it’s a big stumbling block for our readers. We’re concerned that mentions of hard alcohol mean major Christian book distributors won’t want to carry your book.”

I pause for a moment, purse my lips, drain the glass of merlot.

II

I have become a single-issue Christian on everything but the lordship of Jesus.

Alcohol, abortion, gay marriage, intercession of saints, what does or does not happen in the Eucharist, baptism of the Holy Spirit, bishops, women in ministry, capital punishment, euthanasia, evolution, pacifism, the Virgin Mary, separation of church and state, welfare, biblical inerrancy, gun control, literal hell, the authority of the Pope, healthcare, feminism, climate change, taxes, sexual ethics, and myriad other issues have formed the litany of our requirements for orthodoxy.

If someone disagrees with me about alcohol, then they are unenlightened. If they disagree with me about pacifism, they are unloving. If they disagree with me about baptism, then they are perhaps not truly saved.

There. Right there. That is the point on which all this turns.

I have done it.

I do it.

I do not post it, I do not comment it, I do not speak it aloud. But in the quietness of my heart where the chaos of sin still lurks, it is whispered like that snake in that mythical garden that I can disregard them because they aren’t in with God.

II, addendum

Or, a deductive argument:

  1. To be a Christian, to be saved, one must “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31)
  2. Upon belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit enters a believer (Ephesians 1:13)
  3. All Christians share the same Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Therefore, it follows that if someone is in Christ, they have the Holy Spirit within them and speak and act in the power of that Spirit.

Like it or not.

III

I do not hold the monopoly on the Spirit of God. I am not the gatekeeper for the work of God in the world.

If I hold too fiercely to my notion of what faithfulness must look like, I’ll miss Jesus when He passes by as the beggar or the whore or the CEO or the cripple or the Muslim or the other. The other. The other that is the one I do not wish to look upon that nonetheless my God would come to me as to teach me what it means to receive mercy from the least of these.

There is but one thing that truly matters, and it is the person of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work for the cosmos.

If we agree on this but disagree on all else, so what?

God is not threatened by our disagreement, by a dry martini or a stance on abortion or gay marriage or the word bullshit or the length of a skirt or anything else we like to point to as the hill worth dying on.

There is but one hill to die on and upon it the One has already died so that we might live.

IV

I do not want to suggest that we do not critique, question, debate.

But I want to stay my hand from going too far and presuming that they are not a Christian, that I have nothing to learn from them, that the Spirit of God does not and cannot speak in and through them.

Because where would that leave my dry martini and me?

V

A parenthetical, but a necessary one.

I anticipate someone will have something to say about causing others to stumble.

This is where we endanger ourselves with a kind of haphazard legalism. We make blanket statements. We draw lines in the stand.

What about the alcoholics? What if someone reads your words and upon seeing martini they immediately go on a drunken bender, fall off the wagon altogether?

I am friends with alcoholics. I am friends with the sorts of alcoholics that don’t bat an eye when you take a drink in front of them and the sorts that casually mention it’s easier on them if you don’t. I let them be my barometer, my guide, because the question of causing someone else to stumble is ultimately a question of hospitality. Is it hospitable for me to drink or not drink in front of this person?

There is physicality to that question, though. It is not a question that so easily translates into text on a page or digital etching on the Internet wall. My words here are not the same as you watching me drink. There is difference of time and space and presence. The written word does not create the same space as the opened door of my house.

Hospitality exists here, too, in a species of the word, but not in a way that perfectly translates as we would seem to want it to. I’m not exactly sure what it means per se, but I do believe it has something to do with listening. Listening for that common language of Jesus is Lord.

VI

This cuts both sides.

This cuts out everything but Jesus.

This cuts out the presumptions that you need to believe X and do Y in Z manner in order to get to Jesus.

This strips the catechism of its demands. This shuns the one who says unless you believe _______ about ______ you’re not really a Christian.

This leaves Jesus. This dares to believe God speaks everywhere and through everything.

I have been at ease in my counterfeit Zion too long.

I have forgotten the God crucified outside the city gates.

VII

When you read the first page of my memoir, you will not read dry martini. You will read drinks.

I made the decision that it was more important for me to get the message of the book out — Jesus made known to us in the Eucharist, in the stillness, in the wideness of belief — than to quibble over a particular detail of an event.

Some will think I sold out because of that. Maybe I did.

What I hope I did was choose the more important point over the details of the point. What I hope is there will come a day when I don’t have to, a day when the nebulous and petulant market will be listening for the common language that Jesus is Lord, that this confession will be enough for us all.

But not yet.

Photo by y wickenden, Creative Commons via Flickr.

When This Is My Best Life Now

by Preston

Angels in America. Promotional photo from the HBO miniseries.

Angels in America. Promotional photo from the HBO miniseries.

I

I pack away anything I don’t like about myself from my past.

I don’t look at it. I don’t touch it.

I live in a constant state of insistence that who I am right now is who I have always been.

I am my best life now.

I have always been my best life now.

I don’t want you to see the mess or the disaster of self I have been. I don’t want you to look too closely at the poor decisions and imperfection.

How will you love me if that’s what you see?

How will you love me if your want of me is not rooted in your need of me, which is rooted in how shiny happy I am?

II

I read once that prophesy in the Bible comes in two forms: the prophetic word that proclaims the future and the prophetic word that interprets and informs the present and past.

We are all, then, living in a kind of prophecy.

III

I have done it to you, I’m sure.

We were disagreeing about something to do with God and when I saw the crack in your argument that had to do with knowledge or having read so-and-so or such-and-such and I pounced and tore you open and left you gutted.

I say this twist of theological knife as if I have always believed it. As if this particular insight or position or belief was woven into me from my making.

But it wasn’t.

I read it last week.

Someone posted about it, then I read two more posts and a Wikipedia article. Now I am a believer in the cause and always have been, patron saint of the movement, and if you haven’t heard of it or speak in ignorance or are somehow not in the know, you are an idiot.

You are other.

That’s the fear. The othering.

You are other and if you look at me too long you’ll know I am other, too. And I can’t let you see that. I can’t let you in to that place of self.

I trip all over the carcass of my past self in my frenzy to sink the knife of newfound opinion and belief into you so that you don’t rat me out to the group, tell them I am not one of them, I do not belong.

IV

In the play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, lead character Prior is alone in his apartment dying of AIDS when he is visited by an angel. She breaks through his ceiling, surrounds him with light, and informs him that he is the prophet to America and that sacred texts have been hidden for him to read from. The angel appears slightly uncertain about her surroundings and the prophet in question, hinting that she is more accustomed to deserts and outdoorsmen than the midtown studio with a dying man who sometimes walks around other people’s dreams in drag.

Prior is rightfully skeptical and terrified at the same time, but eventually follows the angel’s instructions to search for the sacred texts, which end up being buried underneath his kitchen tiles. The angel narrates the episode while it happens as if quoting a kind of scripture, loudly intoning: “And lo the prophet sought out the sacred texts–” and after a moment of hesitation, “–in the kitchen of the apartment!”

Prior resists tearing up the tiles because of his security deposit, so the angel casts lightning down to break the tiles apart. Once she has done this, she announces loudly: “Revision in the text! The angel helped the prophet to uncover the sacred texts that he would use to prophesy unto America!”

Stop.

That is what I do.

Revision in the text!

It was supposed to be one way, but it is now another.

Yet I narrate this world as if the living of it is scripture; I narrate as if it was prophetically being lived in media res.

V

“Being gay is a choice.”

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

“Racism doesn’t really exist anymore.”

“We should invade Iran.”

I said those things. I have to look them in the eye and admit that I said them.

Once, and it feels like it’s long ago, but it’s not that long. I have to do some owning of the past.

The words of The Tempest: “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.”

I don’t want to. I want to pack it away. I want the revisions.

The hardest part of writing memoir is not the recounting of fact, but truth.

Am I truly this bad? Am I truly this good?

Am I really so awkwardly both?

VI

If I am honest, I am afraid.

To admit aloud that I freely cede my certainty and acknowledge my propensity to change is to put into the hands of my dissenters the power to expect the change from me.

He believes X only for now because one day he’ll come around and really see the truth.

I shall tell you a truth.

I fear writing too plainly about the current questions because to admit them is to be expected to comment on them. So I hold back.

But I’ll tell you now, here, the current questions, the things that keep me up at night:

██████████████████ love ██████████████████████████████████

███████████████████████████████ God ████████████████████████████

█████ always ████

[Some content redacted to protect the author.]

VII

According to the counter, this post has undergone seventeen revisions.

That’s a lie. It’s ten.

Seventeen sounded more poetic.

There is no angel.

I’m not sure where to go from here.

There is no text to revise in the text of living. There is only the words that keep winding out, ever on.

when you say to me pro-life

by Preston

Author’s note: this post originally ran on my own blog on November 4th, last year, and the kind editors of Deeper Story are letting in run again because of the business of the holidays.

I

When you say to me pro-life.

I’m in her backyard again, the one with the magnolia tree that hung so low that one winter, the branches dipped into the pool. We are in a time long enough ago that it is a blurred image. Our feet dangle in the pool midsummer like those low handing winter branches; we count the stars overhead, blessing given to Abraham, find the number too many to name, find the circle of our eyes too narrow to see the whole, find the whole that in this moment seems to be without us, without God.

Texas requires parental consent. I think her step-mother. I don’t think her father ever knew.

Come over? I can’t—come over?

We were friends once, perhaps even then. We were friends looking up into the stars that we could not count three days after she terminated a pregnancy that, if our math was correct, was conceived eight weeks previous. We had made the calculations. We have numbered our fingers, then a crumpled sheet of notepaper between us, and again, when we doubted, on the Playbill from a performance of The Tempest she had seen at the end of May.

I knew the father, but I can’t remember his face now. I’m not sure he was ever told.

It took ten minutes.

Ten minutes.

I didn’t know ten minutes could mean all that.

II

Tuesday, in America, we queue in tidy lines and decide the next four years of our civic future.

There have been a lot of issues with the issues thrown around. Abortion has been one of them. And regardless of how idealized we conceive our candidates, it is prudent to note that much concerning abortion will not change under either candidate. Roe v. Wade is long from, if ever, being overturned.

But, more than that, our rhetoric won’t change.

Banners that read abortion is murder will still have the invisible asterisk beside the last word, the exemption clause observed by many in the pro-life movement, that if the mother has been raped or is the victim of incest, abortion is understandable.

These are the same people, usually, who advocate capital punishment. Life for life.

Then there’s the other side.

These are the same people, usually, who argue that a woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy but do not see conflict with laws that recognize the murder of a mother and her unborn child as a double homicide.

These are the same people, usually, who advocate euthanasia. Right to end life.

And somewhere in the tangle, phrases like pro-life and pro-choice slip through the cracks of our broken words.

III

He didn’t know.

I’ve just remembered.

She never told him.

Ten minutes.

We had made the calculations.

Ten minutes could mean all that.

She cried on my shoulder for a half hour.

If you had been there, I wonder what you would have seen? I wonder if you would have thought her to feel guilty? I wonder if you would have thought her to be suddenly penitent for what she had done?

What if I told you that she wasn’t?

What if I told you that she wept because of the mess of it all, that she didn’t believe it had been life within her, that to this day, she still doesn’t?

What would you make of the way I held her? The way her hair smelled of sea-foam and lilies? What would you make of the moment I told her she was still loved, still cared for, still accepted?

What would you make of how I believed in that moment, I was most like Christ to her?

What would you make of how I believe this was being pro-life? Caring for the life in my own arms?

This was Christ. In that moment.

Ten minutes could mean all that.

IV

I am pro-life.

Without—I’m trying to become—qualification.

I believe abortion is the failure of good.

I believe euthanasia is the failure of good.

I believe capital punishment is the failure of good.

I believe war is the failure of good.

I believe the taking of a life, any life, is against the ethic that Christ reveals to us in the Gospels, that Paul expounds upon in his letters, that is prefigured by the gravity with which the Father regards the killing of an innocent in the Old Testament.

I believe the early church showed this sort of non-violence. I believe they saved babies from infanticide and cared for the elderly and infirm and refused to go to war because they were pro-life.

And I believe these things without asterisks. I believe them without exceptions. I believe them without equivocation.

But.

I am pro-life.

Which means I have held a would-have-been-mother after she aborted her child. Which means I have prayed for the one in a coma. Which means I have prayed for the one he told me of on death row. Which means I have prayed for the soldiers to come home.

Which means that I am against abstinence-only education in public schools, because abstinence without the context of Faith makes no sense, makes no legitimate claims, makes no moral case. Without God, two become one flesh is meaningless. In a nation of separated church and state, abstinence-only is an impractical gesture toward an empty claim. Condoms or not, kids in high school are still going to have sex. With better access to condoms, though they are no guarantee, they could reduce the amount of abortions among teenage girls.

Which means I am advocate for stricter gun control.

Which means I believe war must be the last option, if ever an option.

Which means that I applaud many Christian feminist ideals like paid paternity leave and children being placed with the parent most suited to care for them.

I am pro-life.

I believe the women who choose to abort are women that Christ died for as much as He died for me.

I believe the doctors who choose to euthanise are doctors that Christ died for as much as He died for me.

I believe the executioners who choose to execute are executioners that Christ died for as much as He died for me.

I believe the soldiers who choose to defend by lethal force are soldiers that Christ died for as much as He died for me.

And I will bring them to my dining room table, I will feed them, cry over them, listen to them, love them, strip to the waist and wash their feet.

You will not find me holding the protest signs. You will not find me shouting in the streets.

But you shall find me weeping when someone says war is the only option, drop bombs from the drones and find me unable to speak when it’s only a fetus, my right to choose.

Because it’s all I can give.

Because ten minutes can mean all of that.

V

I wanted to be so much clearer with these words. I wanted to say so much more. I wanted to say that the ethics of being pro-life mean perspective for the whole of life.

Others have said something similar, something better.

We need to start welcoming young mothers with loud children into our services better. We need to not glare at them when their children cry. We need to not gawk when they breastfeed in public.

We need to start welcoming older people and the infirm in our congregations, making sure they are looked after, connected to, respected.

Somehow, this is about being pro-life, too.

This is about changing how people think. How they live.

VI

This thing of darkness I Acknowledge mine

VII

When you say to me pro-life.

I am there, again, holding her close, letting her cry.

I am letting her let all of it out.

I am saying nothing about how I feel about abortion, because to say pro-life is to say it for the lost child and the young woman I now hold.

I hold her, for she is life, too.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.

She is the only life I have any power to save now.

And, even then, we do not believe that we are the ones who save.

When you say to me pro-life.

I am holding her, under the stars promised to Abraham with one twinkling light now gone dim, and we are caught in the void of an impossible, tangled mess of shattered hopes and crag-rock uncertainties, a circle that at times seems to be without us, without God.

Ten minutes can mean all that.

when i spoke a truth once

by Preston

once, a truth spoken

I think I spoke a truth once:
I dropped it into a bowl
of melted chocolate and
covered it in rose sprinkles
and let it dry on the counter
so you wouldn’t notice.
(Did you know? You ate it, all the same.)

You didn’t die:
even weeks later when I watched you
over the paper thinking Today is the day.
You kept on living.
(You and I, we kept on.)

I have been sitting here considering,
in the blush summer of the other side of a life–
revision: our life–
speaking another truth.

Maybe I just did.

when i don’t know how to do justice, but i can do this

by Preston

Prologue

I remember the first time black hands placed the white wafer Body of Christ into mine.

I remember that it was the middle of Advent three years ago, in a small church near my parent’s home. I remember that there was nothing special about it when it happened, that I didn’t notice or purpose to notice it, that it was only much later in the car on the way home that it occurred to me. My whole life I had been in churches with people of different ethnic backgrounds, but this was my first time when one of those people was at the altar of God as leader, was placing Sacrament into my hand and speaking over me the words of  blessing, that this was Body of Christ broken for me.

I

We have dinner after the panel in a small dining room where there is a salad with spiced pears and a wine that is a little too heavy on the bottom. We are all white, but there are women, treated with respect and authority, so I feel at least some sort of counterbalance. We have attended a panel on economic growth and whether or not it is an essential good for society.

We turn this question over for a time until I interject, awkward and out of place, the question of race.

Someone had been saying that just having family close does not guarantee human flourishing, that having a stay at home parent in a two parent household is statistically better than a working single parent who relies on grandparents or aunts and uncles to look after a child. I point out this is privilege, luxury, that in cycles of poverty and systemic racism, we have to account for all the people who cannot afford the option of one parent staying home, that this has a lot to do with racial injustice, and if we’re going to talk about policy when it comes to these things, we have to talk about race.

Someone agrees that it is a problem.

And that is where we stop. It is a problem.

We move on to something else.

II

Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.

– Simone Weil.

III

Last year, I didn’t vote.

I was in Scotland and didn’t mail my absentee ballot in time. Considering I’m from Texas, I’m sure it would not have made much of a difference either way. But from an ethical standpoint I recognize that I have breached the social contract, I have told the State that I don’t want a voice in the midst of it.

But that’s easy to do, I think. The government has shut down. Shut down. Shut down while the Congress who decided to shut it down is still being paid. And I don’t think there is anyone righteous here, left or right, in the midst of this whole mess. This isn’t a post about how to fix it, this is a post about how helpless this all seems.

I don’t know how to do justice. I have no idea what it means to advocate for it. I sit at a dinner and mention that racism is still real and still a part of our system, a system that was recently shut down and in which my one vote doesn’t really matter a whole lot.

And I have no idea, whatsoever, where Jesus stands in any of this. Except for the white Jesus, somewhere in the center of so much of this discussion: the capitalist Jesus, the Western Jesus, the Jesus of colonization and interpretations that make America the city on the hill.

Are we that city?

How high is that hill?

How far do we fall when we realize that the Gospel is too big for us and was never about a country?

IV

Last Sunday, black hands carried the elements forward to the Table. Black hands handed me the offering plate.

We are the same in this space, in the Body of Christ. Regardless of the oppression of the State, regardless of the abstract talk that never quite makes policy, a system that doesn’t want to be fixed.

Some days I don’t know how to do justice, but I can do this: I can walk to the altar of God and kneel beside whomever I find there. I can put my hands out and receive from whatever hands offer me the promise of salvation. I can say, pray for the Christ of no single color, who overcame and overcomes.

On the days I don’t know how to do justice, all I seem to have is prayer.

It’s not enough. It never feels like it’s enough.

But it’s what I have.

Afterword

It is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

That seems fitting.

an open letter to my proud heart

by Preston

Dear Heart,

You did it again. Well, I suppose we did. Even though we’re taking a break from Twitter to try and recover some sense of physical over digital identity, it took only one text message to send us back to lurk and gawk, to watch the latest drama unfold, to rant and rave and sneer at the idiocy of it all.

See, we’re good at this. You and I have been on this journey of spiritual discovery for awhile now. We have poured over the books, we have sat with priests, we have known theological greats, and parsed the languages. When spiritual debate circles round, when theological politics caravan through our small corner of the Internet, we perk up, we ready the watchtowers, because surely all this education and meditation and acts of religion lend themselves to our use: we shall be the ones who call down the blasphemer, the foolish, the oppressor.

Oh, we are very good at this. We talk ourselves over and over until we can no longer see the person behind the statement, until we convince ourselves that we’re critiquing the wording, not the person, and so that snide comment–and we are good at snide comments–isn’t a gunshot to the heart of someone else’s Faith, it’s a leveling rod of divine justice against the systemic evil of this world.

Yes, we have gotten very good at convincing ourselves. Others, too. In the echo chamber of our corner of the world, where we consider ourselves outcast for having the theologically free opinion, the hermeneutic of superiority we parade around under a crooked-crude banner called Hope. We sit in our circles fasting on the ashes of our faithfulness all the while pretending we feast on the bread and wine of mercy.

How quickly you forget.

Was it not a handful of years ago that you parroted the very lines you now ridicule? Was it not so very long ago that you were putting up walls to orthodoxy where God would have made gates?

Yet you return to this habit, for habits die hard when you’ve got a sentimental heart, and now you call yourself a liberator of the oppressed by using your words to build the same kinds of walls and parrot the same kind of half-twist rhetoric, but this time around different people and from different talking heads.

I know, I know, this is about justice. Yes, I’ve heard you use that line before. I know it’s about caring about good theological understanding, yes, you’re fond of that line too.

But you are calling yourself an Anglican these days, if I remember, and in the Communion rite you say in response to the call, Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

Up to the lord, heart. That is where you are to go. So I wonder about you when you rant and rave, when you use your words to wound others of Faith for the alleged sake of a faceless mass of people you have never met. I wonder if you think this truly is the best way, if this is truly how a heart is lifted up to the Lord?

Because Jesus made the first Communion even with Judas. I wonder sometimes if you forget that you may very well be the Judas at that altar rail. That perhaps Piper and Driscoll and Keller and Martin and Bessey and Evans and Turner and the myriad of others who are counted among His, are the ones who know more about the things to know than you do, that you have something else to learn, and that should you disagree with them, the way to do so is as Jesus would and as Jesus did: with mercy, with grace, with conviction.

Oh yes, dear heart, I’m tone policing you. I’m reminding you that St. James tells us the tongue is a fire that can so easily set the world ablaze.

I am reminding you that your pride does not make you right, your conviction does not make you above reproach.

Get low, proud heart. Bow your head and kneel at the feet of Christ. Surrender all of you–particularly your speech–and beg to know gracious phrasing, to love people alongside their Creator toward the Truth that you yourself know only in fractured, fragment part.

Are you not tired of being angry?

Are you not weary of your unrest?

Be still, proud heart, and know that He is God. Know that you are not.

When you would speak snark or sarcasm and pretend it justified, stop. Be still. Remember the three gates:

Is it necessary?

Is it true?

Is it kind?

If it is the sum of all three, speak. But do not fool yourself any longer, do not pretend that passion is the same as God’s blessing.

Quiet now. Still. You are not so very far from God, but you are not so very near.

Love,

Preston

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